Has this ever happened to you?  A few weeks ago, I messed up on the dinner date, the actual date when I invited 8 friends to join us for a weeknight dinner.  This is how it all evolved.  I had decided I would cook Moroccan cuisine and use the tagine, it’s always a conversation piece at the dinner table.  I informed the guests that I would be cooking the entire meal, but that they would be in charge of the drinks.  Theme based dinners are so much fun.

I had started the menu and the prep work a day ahead as there was a lot to get done. Sous chef Bert was at my side helping as we went along.  We cooked 2 vegetarian tagines.  I hear a ding on our group chat.  I jumped into the conversation, “You all best bring your appetites tomorrow as I’m cooking a ton”. The lights flashed, the phone beeped and buzzed repeatedly.  Everyone thought I was playing a joke.

The dinner was supposed to have been on that same night, the joke was on me; how and why was I thinking it was the next day?  Oops, what a blunder –  I asked if everyone was able to come the following day, but a few weren’t able to.  What was I to do? I decided to soldier on, I took it on as a challenge!  I had no sooner upped my speed when there’s another ding on the phone.  One of the guys came to the rescue.  “I’ll be there to help you out as soon as I get out of work” he texts and what a God-send he turned out to be, he also happens to be a great cook. He arrived soon after and tackled the chicken tagine on his own. There were 2 more dishes plus the dessert that I had to cook and we had about two and a half hours left before the guests would arrive.  Sometimes these glitches are sent to test us I believe 🙂 Another guest pops in and brings ingredients for an Old Fashioned drink, she figured I’d need it.  We all scrambled through, got the last minute touches done when we heard the doorbell.  It turned out to be a wonderful night after all.

Here are some of the dishes we served that night.  Tagine, the classic dish from the region of North Africa is a glorified stew, aromatic, syrupy, zesty and spicy or sometimes even sweet with the addition of dried fruit and honey.  The actual vessel it is cooked in is called a tagine.  It has a conical lid designed to lock in the moisture and flavors.

Tagine of spicy lamb meatballs served in a lemony broth. The ingredients included parsley, garlic, ginger, cinnamon, cumin, ground coriander, paprika, ground turmeric, chopped mint and coriander leaves.
Couscous studded with pomegranate arils and pistachios.

Spicy chicken tagine with apricots, rosemary and ginger

Spicy carrot, sweet potato and chickpea tagine with prunes, turmeric and cilantro

Any excuse to use my “animal napkin holders” because after all Morocco IS in Africa, North Africa to be precise 🙂  My mother handed those down to me as she knew I enjoy entertaining.  They also came with matching napkins, which I did not use that night. They are beautiful wood carved napkin holders and were purchased when we emigrated to England from Kenya, so they hold a deeper meaning for me. They too are quite a conversation piece at the dinner table.

 

Would you believe it if I mentioned that I actually set up 4 place settings the following day just to get some pictures in the daylight for this post? It got real dark when we actually sat at the table that night, so the pictures were pretty dull.  Besides, I was pretty disorganized that entire evening, I’d forgotten the candles, the wine glasses and water glasses too.

Last but not least, the dessert actually got cooled in time.  It called for at least 3 hours in the refrigerator after inverting it.

Cheesecake flan served with raspberries and blueberries.  We saved the Moroccan night after all and everyone went away with smiles on their faces 🙂  Note to self:  Send reminders the day before, if it weren’t for the barrage of texts, I’d never have known and the guests would have all showed up at the door.  Well I guess pizza could always have been a second option 🙂

43 Replies to “Saving a Moroccan dinner night”

    1. Ha ha Sue. You’re too kind, I’m not sure I’d survive the pressure on those shows 🙂 We haven’t seen you in a while, let’s get together soon, before the holidays 🙂

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  1. Wow! I am so impressed Loretta! I generally like to get things ahead of time too and would have panicked in your situation. You did such an awesome job! I have not cooked in a tagine. Do you taste a difference when you cook in it?
    Your table looks spectacular with the Moroccan decor. I love theme dinners as well…. and oh those animal napkin rings! What a treasure those are!

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    1. Thanks Sandhya! I did get some help, or I’d be completely wack-a-doodle after such a royal mess up 🙂 A friend of mine gave me that tagine vessel as a thank you after I did an Indian cooking session for her for her online cooking course at a local university here. I think the meats definitely do turn out super moist and succulent in the tagine; however, I did make the 2 vegetarian and the lamb meatball dish in regular dishes. Perhaps the lamb meatballs would have been better in the tagine, but I only had one 🙂

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      1. Can you believe that I had . atagine gifted to me but at the time thought I would not use it as much so gave it away. Now I want it again after seeing your post 🙂

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  2. You reminded me of two things 1) I need to use my beautiful yellow Le Creuset tagine and 2) I forgot about daylight savings time once when I had a brunch/wedding party and I forgot time moved ahead an hour. I was barely out of the shower and dressed when guests started to arrive. Needless to say I was cooking for a little bit instead of being totally ready! I’m too organized and “surprises” don’t agree with me but you have to make the best of it. The food looks delicious – glad everyone could come as planned 🙂

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    1. Yes, I recall you telling me you had a yellow Le Creuset tagine on another Moroccan post of mine. What a shock that must have been for you too when you found out that the time had changed overnight literally 🙂 It all ended well though and in some ways it was good that I messed up; everyone had something to laugh about, and no doubt will remind me whenever I make another dinner arrangement 🙂

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  3. Wow! That’s a lovely spread Loretta. Everything looks so appetizing. It is always the desserts which need to set which cause some panic in these situations. But the flan turned out so well. I am sure you had a good time👍😊

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    1. Thanks Ana, so lovely to see you; it’s been a while since our paths have crossed? I hope you and your family are doing well? Yes, I was a tad nervous that the dessert wouldn’t be ready, but because we were running late anyway, it had more than enough time to set. It was a beautiful evening even though I messed up 🙂

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  4. I totally love theme based dinner and I have planned South East Asian Dinner for my friends this month. I do most of my cooking a day ahead so that I have sufficient time to set up and arrange the house otherwise I’ll get panicked like you. But you made a wonderful spread. I feel so inspired to do Moroccan next time.

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    1. Yes, it’s always fun and I too start cooking ahead of time as there usually are so many dishes to prepare. But I did feel I did not have enough time for the actual table, so missed some things that should have been out. I hope you will blog about the SE Asian dinner. I always enjoy reading different posts on cooking themes. I love Moroccan and having that tagine really made quite a statement.

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  5. *smiling broadly* – well, I am a Paula Wolfert girl who tried to help her all I knew when she republished her ‘Moroccan Cooking’ way back – what wonderful fun ! A great way to entertain and I am lucky to have collected quite a number of tagines to which I hope to add when I join one of Victoria Challancin’s wonderful Moroccan culture tours hopefully next year ! Why not catch up with ‘us’ on Instagram at the moment . . . 🙂 ! Do like your napkin holders: have not seen quite the like . . .

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      1. *smile* VChallancin’ would teach anyone a lot about Moroccan culture but also about her longterm domicile in beautiful San Miguel de Allende, Mexico . . . Vicki is a Florida expat who has lived and taught around the world and has been my guru for years . . .

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    1. Thanks Josette. It was a tad stressful once I knew I had only two and a half hours to crank out 2 dishes, plus a dessert that needed to be set. But with some help, we managed to save the night 🙂 Thanks, the napkin holders were a nice distraction from my foodie faux pas 🙂

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    1. Thanks Desley, how lovely to have you visit. It’s been some time now. How are things in Aussie land? I hope good? I’ll never forget one Christmas in Australia, we saw Santa and Mrs. Claus in shorts! LOL That image has been etched in my memory forever 🙂

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    1. Thanks Liz, yes I’m sure they will be talking about it for years, glad I brought some humor into the evening 🙂 The recipe was from the cook book that came with the tagine. I actually took 2 recipes and blended them. I love the sweetness and the spiciness in Moroccan cuisine.

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  6. I am so happy to connect with your blog, which my friend Eha Carr introduced me to. Instagram as well. I think we are definitely kindred spirits. I also understand that you are coming to San Miguel next year. Please let me know if I can help you in anyway as I have lived here for 31 years. My own blog, which I have neglected for two years and may or may not ever return to, was greatbfun while I had my mojo. You are doing a great job! I look forward to backtracking and reading more of your posts.

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    1. Hi Vicki, thanks for reaching out, indeed I feel we are kindred spirits 🙂 I see you run a cooking school too. Oddly enough, I always try to take a local cooking lesson when I’m traveling, so I know for sure what I’ll be doing for at least one day on the trip. We haven’t sorted out details yet, but it sounds like a lovely part of Mexico sans beaches. Would love to see what you’ve written about, is the area covered on your blog?

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