When it comes to enlivening an evening meal, few cuisines pack quite as much punch as the culinary traditions of Spain, Morocco and the Muslim Mediterranean.
Husband and wife team Sam and Sam Clark, authors of the popular Moro cookbook range, are living proof that you don’t need a hot climate to enjoy this fabulous food.
From colourful, crunchy salads zinging with fresh, tart flavours to Lebanese bread dishes laced with subtle sweet and sour notes, their simple recipes wake up the tastebuds.
Here are two of their very moreish recipes to try...
Feta salad with spinach, crispbread, sumac and pinenuts (Serves 4)
500g young, tender spinach
200g feta cheese, crumbled
sprinkle of fresh oregano or marjoram leaves
75g pinenuts, very lightly toasted
For the crispbread:
2 pitta breads
For the dressing:
1/2 garlic clove, crushed to a paste with salt
1tbsp red wine vinegar
4tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper
To make the crispbread, preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4. Melt the butter, and as it’s melting, carefully split the pitta in half lengthways and brush the butter on both sides.
Place the pitta halves on a rack in the middle of the oven. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove and cool.
For the dressing, whisk all the ingredients together and taste for seasoning.
To assemble the salad, put the spinach, roughly broken crispbread, half the feta, the oregano or marjoram and pinenuts in a large mixing bowl. Pour on most of the dressing and give everything a good toss. Serve with the remaining feta and dressing on top.
Thick gazpacho (Serves 4)
2 garlic cloves
1kg sweet, ripe tomatoes, halved
100g white bread, crusts removed, roughly crumbled
10tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2tbsp good quality sweet red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
A pinch of caster sugar (optional)
Sea salt and black pepper
1 hard-boiled egg, finely chopped
3tbsp Serrano ham, finely chopped
Crush the garlic in a mortar with a good pinch of salt until you have a smooth paste. Using an electric handheld blender or food processor, puree the tomatoes and bread until completely smooth. If there are many seeds, strain through a sieve. Then, with the machine still running, add the garlic and slowly pour in the olive oil. When the oil has combined, transfer the mixture to a large bowl and add the vinegar, salt and pepper to taste, and also a pinch of sugar if the tomatoes are not particularly sweet.
The consistency of the soup should be like apple puree. Add some water if necessary. Place the bowl in the fridge for two hours to chill.
Just before serving, check the seasoning once more, then ladle the soup into four bowls and sprinkle the chopped egg and ham on top.
· Moro: The Cookbook, Casa Moro and Moro East are published in new paperback editions by Ebury Press,