Do you want to travel the world exploring exotic cultures, languages, art and nature? Why, yes, of course you do! So rather than spending months scouring Expedia and spending thousands of your hard-earned dollars, simply stop by Retreat by Random House every second Wednesday. We’ll help you experience alluring locales like Korea, South Africa, Israel and many more.
On our last stop we kicked up our heels and dipped our tortilla chips in homemade salsa while visiting Mexico. This week we’ve decided to stick with the heat and head east. Say Al Salam Alikum to Morocco!
Moroccan cuisine is a great choice when entertaining a crowd; especially if it’s a group of hungry, literary-minded book club members. It was made for sharing!
Thanks to globalization, you can easily pick up authentic Moroccan spices and ingredients at your local grocery store or market. Typical Moroccan dishes include fresh salads with tomato and roasted eggplant, couscous, lamb, beef, chicken and seafood. The secret to creating Moroccan food is the spices. Common ingredients can become exotic with the addition of cumin, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, coriander and saffron. If you have a slower cooker, this is the perfect opportunity to whip out that bad boy and throw in your choice of meat with a combination of spices, vegetables and stock. Serve the results over couscous and you can’t go wrong.
After a filling meal, you know your guests are going to want something to satisfy their sweet tooth. Fresh fruit is a popular choice or perhaps a widely eaten dessert called kaab el ghzal meaning gazelle’s horns. It’s a pastry stuffed with almond paste and topped with sugar. Make your own with a twist using puff pastry, slivered almonds and icing sugar.
To quench your thirst, try a refreshing mint tea served hot or cold. Alcohol is not allowed under the laws of Islam…and anyway, we know we don’t need to give you any more encouragement to drink at your book club meetings.
Liven Up Your Space:
Moroccan-themed parties have always been popular. If you live the lifestyle of the rich and famous, you might want to rent a camel to greet your guests with a friendly nuzzle. Since most of us aren’t lucky enough to have wild animals attend our soirees, an easy way to decorate your home for a Moroccan book club meeting is to purchase a few metres of sheer, brightly-coloured fabric at your local sewing store and drape those around the room. Additionally, have your guests sit on cushions on the floor surrounding small coffee tables you have covered in patterned scarves you probably already own. Dim the lights and play some Moroccan music and your guests won’t know the difference between being in Rabat and at your house.
Now For the Good Stuff:
The books, of course! We’re celebrating Jane Johnson this week because of her extensive knowledge of Morocco. She has three fabulous books to choose from.
The Sultan’s Wife by Jane Johnson
It is 1677, Morocco. Behind the magnificent walls and towering arches of the Palace of Meknes, captive chieftain’s son and now a lowly scribe, Nus Nus is framed for murder. As he attempts to evade punishment for the bloody crime, Nus Nus finds himself trapped in a vicious plot, caught between the three most powerful figures in the court. The Sultan’s Wife is a page-turning mystery, grandly seductive romance and full historical immersion into Moroccan court history. It’s exquisitely depicted and intensely absorbing.
The Salt Road by Jane Johnson
Isabelle’s estranged archeologist father dies, leaving her a puzzle. In a box she finds some papers and a mysterious African amulet — but their connection to her remains unclear until she embarks on a trip to Morocco to discover how the amulet came into her father’s possession. When the amulet is damaged and Isabelle almost killed in an accident, she fears her curiosity has got the better of her. The Salt Road is a tale of souls wounded by history and of love blossoming on barren ground.
Read an excerpt here.
The Tenth Gift by Jane Johnson
In an expensive London restaurant Julia Lovat receives a gift that will change her life. It appears to be a book of exquisite 17th-century embroidery patterns but on closer examination Julia finds it also contains faint diary entries. In these, Cat Tregenna, an embroideress, tells how she and others were stolen out of a Cornish church in 1625 by Muslim pirates and taken on a brutal voyage to Morocco to be auctioned off as slaves. It’s captivating and dramatic, everything you want in a book club read!
Read an excerpt here.
Next stop: Canada!