Hooray! We made it in the end. You may have noticed that I haven't written a post for about a month. I'm not really that apologetic: for some reason inspired by insanity, The Girl and I decided not only to get married (formal, traditional City of London wedding) but sell her flat, and my hovel, buy a new house, go on honeymoon and hold down our jobs- all at the same time. The honeymoon was in that fascinating halcyon, lotus eating city, Marrakech; or is it Marrakesh?
The "cuisine" of Morroco is undoubtably interesting, and currently de rigeur amongst trendy food writers. It's difficult to say anything against it. Yup, It's all good stuff- but please allow me to be a tiny bit critical: the Morroccans don't really have a tradition of eating out at restaurants (a bit like the British, albeit until a few years ago), and there is a distinct lack of variety in Marrakech's restaurants (may I suggest for m'sieur a traditional preserved lemon and olive chicken tagine, followed, by a tagine of beef, prunes and almonds?).
How am I going to play this? 'Cos, I've got lots to tell. Probably best in snippets.
The photograph shows a snail soup seller in the Jemaa El Fna. The Jemaa El Fna is a large tarmcadamed square in the middle of Marrakech. At night it comes alive with snake charmers, acrobats, story tellers, tarot card readers, Berber tatoo artists, witch doctors, monkey trainers, dentists and dancers from the Sub-Sahara. It's Medieval, and not just for gormless American and French tourists. How many of them, par example, would have a tooth pulled by old Mohammed, the Jemaa El Fna's on-spot dentist, or haggle for a bit of frizzled lizard from one of those charming Nubian apothecarists?
The new Mrs Aitch and I decided to sample the snails. There are about four or five snail stalls in Marrakech, each with their own number written up on a bit of old wood. As you walk past, the stall owners try to hustle you to their wares, and they're good at it. If you decide to take to plunge, you sit down on one of the formica stools at the front of the stall, and the stall owner scoops up a bowl of snails from his steaming hot pan. A bowl costs ten dirhams.
The snails are served in their shells with a sort of brown coloured snail stock, which I suspect is flavoured with thyme, cinnamon- or possiblty cumin, and a snifter of lemon juice. They're small in size and reasonably gothic- heads, antennae and all, and various bits and pieces or "waste" (is that the right euphanism?) falling out of the snail body- which, I'm almost positive chefs remove in the glorious French Republic.
The snails were- er...snail like, and Mrs Aitch (not a fussy one, I've discovered; all power to her), thought the "snail stock" tasted a bit like a consommé. There was definitely thyme in there somewhere, and perhaps a bit of lemon juice. They were good- good enough to return for a second helping.
The Greasy Spoon recovering from post-wedding stress at the Riad Enija