Moroccan Nights with Belazu
The Dolls House, 35 Hoxton Square, N1 6NN
The Doll’s House is a quirky popup venue on London’s trendiest quadrangle Hoxton Square. With the de rigeur hanging filament light bulbs , painted brick walls and stylish murals it’s the perfect venue for a foodie shindig. The building is going to be knocked down in the very near future to be turned into flats so I was pleased to have the opportunity to visit.
I’m here for Belazu’s pop up supperclub in aid of The Belazu Foundation-a charity set up and run by the company. You’ve seen Belazu’s products on the shelves at Waitrose. They sell olives and other staples from the Maghreb such as rose harissa through retail outlets, but their parent company The Fresh Olive Company has probably supplied the olives you have eaten at your local restaurant or bought in a tub from Selfridges.
The Belazu Foundation funds three years of education for Moroccan school kids in the remote areas of the Atlas Mountains. It’s a well thought through operation with the money being targeted directly at hiring teachers and setting up school rooms. The two-night two-sitting popup is raising £10,000 for this excellent cause and I have been invited to the launch event.
After a minty Moroccan style cocktail we sit down at the table, a gathering of chefs, Belazu staff and press all excited about the upcoming feast.
Starters were served mezze style. There was pickled cumin cauliflower, skinless tomato salad, carrot, cumin and mustard salad, hummus with green verbena harissa, zesty maroc olives, spiced yoghurt with pomegranate and preserved lemon with chickpea and parsley to be mopped up with surprisingly light Moroccan bread.
The green verbena harissa is a revelation, the yoghurt with pomegranate is a pool of sweet and sticky deliciousness but my favourite is the piquant and crunchy carrot salad.
Having stuffed ourselves on the starters we braced ourselves for the mains. New season Dorset lamb shanks had been marinated in rose harissa for 24 hours then slowly braised in Moroccan red wine and mint. The meat was richly flavoured and fell off the bone and was a great match for the robust Moroccan wines we were drinking.
Moroccan roasted aubergine with lemon yoghurt, pistachio nuts and pomegranate molasses was an extraordinary dish-the aubergine was melt-in-the-mouth tender and had a deep sweet flavour from the molasses cut through by the lemon. Mains were accompanied by four grains- barley couscous, kamut, fried millet, and the extra nutty green freekah as well as roasted leeks and carrots.
For dessert we had a lovely Amlou ice cream with barley and millet crumble made with that Moroccan staple Argan oil, and then an enlivening orange salad.
In my travels in Morocco I have seen the poverty and remoteness that effects the Berber communities in the Atlas mountains. Belazu are really trying to give something back to the communities who are the inspiration for the products that they supply to us, and that is to be applauded. They also really know how to throw a great party! It has really inspired me to get cooking again with lots of great ideas for summer dishes.
Disclosure: The Hedonist was a guest of Belazu