Traditional recipes that wake the tastebuds

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 and based in Britain, 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 everytime.

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Feta salad with spinach, crispbread, sumac and pinenuts

Serves 4

500g young, tender spinach, 200g feta cheese, crumbled, 1dsp fresh oregano or marjoram leaves, 75g pinenuts, very lightly toasted

For the Crispbread: 25g butter, 2 pitta breads. For the Dressing: ½ garlic clove, crushed to a paste with salt, 1 tbsp red wine vinegar, 2 tsp sumac, 4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, sea salt and black pepper.

Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4. Melt the butter, and, 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 10-15 min until golden brown. Remove and cool.

For the dressing, whisk all the ingredients together and taste for seasoning. Put the spinach, roughly broken crispbread, half the feta, the oregano or marjoram and pinenuts in a 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 sea salt and black pepper. To serve: 1 hard-boiled egg, finely chopped, 3tbsp Serrano ham, finely chopped.

Crush garlic in a mortar with a pinch of salt until a smooth paste. Using an electric handheld blender or food processor, puree the tomatoes and bread until completely smooth. 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, and a pinch of sugar if the tomatoes are not particularly sweet.

The consistency of the soup should be like apple puree. Add water if necessary. Place in the fridge for two hours. Just before serving, check the seasoning once more, then ladle the soup into four bowls and sprinkle the chopped egg and ham on top.

Syrian Fattoush

Serves 4

1 large aubergine, cut into 1.5cm cubes and tossed with 1tsp fine sea salt, 8tbsp olive oil, 16 ripe cherry tomatoes, halved, 4 spring onions, trimmed and finely slice, seeds of 1 small pomegranate (about 100g), 1 small bunch of mint (about 20g), roughly chopped, 1 medium bunch of flat-leaf parsley (about 40g), leaves picked.

For the Crispbread: 2 pitta breads, 25g unsalted butter. For the Dressing: seeds of 1 small pomegranate (about 100g), squeezed to make juice, ½ small garlic clove, crushed to a paste with a pinch of salt, 3tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4. Split pitta in half lengthways, brush both sides with melted butter. Place the bread in the middle of the oven and bake for 10 min.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool. For the dressing, mix all the ingredients together and season with salt and pepper to taste.

For the aubergine, rinse off the salt and dry well with kitchen paper. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan or wok over a high heat and fry the aubergine for about 10 minutes, until soft and deep golden brown. Drain on kitchen paper and keep warm. To serve the salad, combine two-thirds of the crispbread with the tomatoes, spring onions, aubergine, two-thirds of the pomegranate seeds and the herbs in a large salad bowl, breaking up the bread with your hands as you go.

Now pour on the dressing and toss very gently. Taste for seasoning and serve with the remaining crispbread and pomegranate seeds on top.

Grilled sardines with fennel, garlic and chilli

Serves 4

8 fresh sardines (or 4 portion-sized mackerel fillets), sea salt. To serve: 1 large fennel bulb (and leaves), trimmed and finely chopped, 1 small bunch (about 20g) of young fennel tops, or flat-leaf parsley, chopped, 2 small garlic cloves, finely chopped, 2 long, fresh green chillies, deseeded and finely chopped, 1 lemon in halves or quarters

If you’re grilling over charcoal, light it 20-30 minutes before you wish to cook. If you are grilling under a domestic grill, turn it to a high heat five minutes before you’re ready. Or heat a ridged griddle pan until really hot.

Scaling sardines is easy: just hold each fish under running water and rub from tail to head, as you would a bar of soap. Most of the scales will fall away and any left behind will be easily visible.

To gut the fish, make a slit up the length of the belly with a sharp knife or scissors. Wash out the interior of the belly under running water and cut off the fins with scissors (a fishmonger could easily do all of this in a couple of minutes).

Pat the sardines dry with kitchen paper. In a large bowl, toss the sardines with a generous pinch of sea salt, cover and chill for about half an hour.

Grill the sardines for about two to three minutes on either side. The skin should be slightly charred and the flesh cooked through to the bone but still juicy.

Lay them on a large plate and sprinkle the chopped fennel, fennel tops, garlic and chilli all over. Serve with the lemon.

* Moro: The Cookbook, Casa Moro and Moro East are published in new paperback editions by Ebury Press, priced £17.50 each. To order a copy from the Yorkshire Post Bookshop call free on 0800 0153232 or go online at www.yorkshirepostbookshop.co.uk. Postage and packing is £2.75.