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.