Alert – This is a longish blog post inspired by a travelogue I read. The food comes a little later so please scroll down further if you want to get to recipe. Today’s offering is Moroccan K’sra and Chickpea Soup. K’sra is a Moroccan aniseed flavoured flatbread. It is generally made with flour and semolina but sometimes with barley flour as well. I’m serving it with a Moroccan style Chickpea Soup and the combination is perfect. The Moroccan K’sra and Chickpea Soup were inspired by a book I bought recently titled The Caliph’s House.
It’s a beautiful piece of non-fiction especially if you enjoy travelogues. It is for you if stories, colours and smells of a different world or era excite the hidden adventurer in your heart. What would Morocco say to you? I have never been there but have a read a lot about it. So I see souks bursting at the seams with intricately worked carpets, metal and wooden artifacts waiting to be bargained for. Noisy markets are full of colour and filled with the aroma of exotic spices and street food. I see beautiful Islamic architecture and calligraphy in the mosques and other buildings. My eyes see beautiful colours and patterns on the Moroccan zellige or decorated glazed tiles. There are sweet meat vendors selling delicious pastries and people enjoying mint tea while watching the world go by.
The Caliph’s House is the true life story of a man who is passionate enough to uproot his wife, young daughter and a 3 week old baby from the dreary climes of England. They travel to Morocco to “let his delusions of grandeur run wild” in a crumbling Caliph’s mansion somewhere in a shantytown in Casablanca?
Tahir Shah is a British travel writer of Afghan origin on his father’s side. He and his Indian wife decide that the warm sun in Morocco and “market stalls are a blaze of color, heaped with spices — paprika and turmeric, cinnamon, cumin and fenugreek”, irresistible after dreary and grey London. His ancestry and memories of family vacations in Morocco made the decision for him. So they impulsively bought the Dar Khalifa or Caliph’s House, a crumbling mansion. They find leaving the security of life at home and restoring the old mansion to its former glory not as easy as they first thought.
There’s nothing romantic about Shah’s year in Casablanca. He finds the house he bought is uninhabitable and completely taken over by Jinns. Jinns, central to the Moroccan way of life, are magical mischievous spirits who love to live in empty houses and spaces.
The book goes on to tell us his having to deal with everyday problems. These include dealing with the plumbing, unsuccessfully trying to renovate the Caliph’s house, trying to get his employees to work, fight the Jinns and managing his rather tenuous income! The book makes for an entertaining read.
The recipe for K’sra (pronounced K’shra) is from Home Baking: The Artful Mix of Flour and Traditions from Around the World by Alford and Duguid. According to the authors of the book from which this recipe comes, there is an easy way to find the bakeries in Fez, Morocco. just follow the children who carry cloth covered trays on their heads, around eleven in the morning. They would be carrying dough rounds to be baked in the neighbourhood bakery ovens. These children would return around noon to pick up and take home the baked bread for lunch.
This aniseed flavoured flatbread is soft and slightly chewy which pairs beautifully with spiced preparations. The texture makes it great for mopping up gravies and dunking into soup. It usually accompanies a Moroccan tagine meal. You can even slit it with a knife and fill it to make a slightly different flavoured sandwich.
This post has been updated with text and images since it was first published in October 2010.
Though this Moroccan K’sra and Chickpea Soup was originally inspired by a book, I revisited the bread again as The Bread Baking Babes chose to bake it this month. The Bread Baking Babes (BBB) is a closed group, but you’re most welcome to bake with us as a Bread Baking Buddy. Bake this month’s bread using Kelly’s recipe and post it on your blog before the 28th of this month. Mention the Bread Baking Babes and link to her BBB post in your own post. Then e-mail her or leave a comment on her blog post with details about your post.
Moroccan K’sra and Chickpea Soup
For the Soup :
- 2 tbsps olive oil
- 2 celery stalks chopped
- 2 onions finely chopped
- 1/2 tsp garlic paste
- 2 1/2 tsps toasted cumin seeds freshly ground
- 1 tsp red chilli flakes
- 1 tsp sugar
- 3 cups cooked chickpeas (keep about 1/2 cup of this aside)
- 3 cups vegetable stock
- 3 medium tomatoes chopped
- to taste salt
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 2 tbsps coriander leaves and stalks chopped
For the K'sra Flat Bread :
- 2 cups lukewarm water
- 1 1/2 tsps active dry yeast
- 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
- 3/4 cup coarse semolina/ rawa plus extra for dusting
- 1 tbsp anise seeds
- 3/4 tbsp salt
- 2 1/2 to 3 cups all purpose flour
- To make the soup, start by heating the olive oil in a large pan, add the chopped onion and celery. Saute, on low heat, till the onions turn soft but not brown. Add the powdered cumin and the chilli flakes and cook for about a minute, stirring once or twice.
- Now add the tomatoes, and saute for another couple of minutes. Add the vegetable stock, all the chickpeas except the 1/2 cup kept aside, the sugar and salt. Mix well, turn up the heat and bring the soup to a boil.
- In the meanwhile, take the 1/2 cup of chickpeas which was kept aside and mash it using a masher or a hand blender till the chickpeas is mushy and a bit lumpy but not a purxe9e. Add this to the ingredients in the pan and mix till well blended.
- Turn down the heat and allow the soup to simmer for about 20 minutes, till it is not so watery in consistency and the flavours have blended well. Add the lemon juice and the chopped coriander and adjust seasoning, if necessary.
- Serve hot with the K'sra or flatbread of your choice. This recipe serves about 4.
- To make the K'sra, put the water in a large bowl dissolve the yeast in it. Stir in the whole wheat flour and semolina until a smooth batter is obtained. Cover this and set aside for about 30 minutes or up to 3 hours, according to your convenience. I left mine for 1 1/2 hours.
- The batter would have fermented. Sprinkle the aniseed and the salt on it and add 2 cups of all purpose flour, a little at a time, mixing/ kneading after each addition.
- Turn the sticky dough onto a floured work surface and add more flour, as required, and knead well for 5 to 10 minutes until the dough is soft and elastic and just short of sticky. Resist the temptation to add too much flour or the bread will be tough.
- Put the dough in a clean bowl, loosely cover and allow it to rise till almost double. This should take about 1 1/2 hours. Take the dough out and knead lightly for a minute or so. Then divide the dough into 3 equal portions. Shape each portion into a smooth ball.
- Take each ball and place on a lightly floured surface. Using your palm, evenly flatten the ball of dough into a 6u201d circle. Using your fingers, further press out the circle evenly till it is about 8 or 9 inches or about 1/2 inch thick.
- Dust your baking tray with coarse semolina and put the breads on it. Cover them loosely, and allow them to rise for 30 to 45 minutes. Prick the breads with a fork in about 10 places evenly across the surface of each of the breads.
- Bake the Ku2019sra or flatbreads at 230C (450F) for about 15 to 20 minutes or till golden. You can either bake them all at once or in batches, without any problems. Tap the bottom of the bread after it is baked. If it sounds hollow it is done.
- Slightly cool the K'sra on racks and then wrap them in towels so the crust softens. To serve, cut each K'sra or flatbread into 4 quarters/ pieces. This recipe makes 3 approximately 8 or 9 inch flatbreads.