Monday, March 29, 2010

Food For Casablanca

My husband made a very interesting observation as we watched Casablanca for the first time on Saturday - everyone seemed to be drinking, but no one was seen eating. Well, we had a dinner that day that would have had everyone in Casablanca running to the table, and the theme was appropriately Moroccan.

Our friends Elizabeth and Brian (last name "Cook" - very fitting as Elizabeth loves to cook!) invited us to their house for a Moroccan dish she wanted to try out, and to watch Casablanca - our version of "Dinner and a Movie". She and I shared the cooking duties - I supplied some freshly ground spices, chicken, chick peas, dried apricots, cilantro and couscous for the savory part of the meal which, except for the couscous, is cooked in a crock pot - and she supplied the remaining ingredients, and started cooking it early in the day for us. I've posted the recipe for "Easy Crockpot Moroccan Chicken" below, but you can view the original recipe posted by French Tart at this url:

Elizabeth added the optional carrots, cut at an angle she explained, to "absorb the flavors better". Neither of us had the ras el hanout spice mix, so I used the alternate spices listed, grinding the cumin and coriander (or did I accidentally use cardamom?!) myself. It would've been nice to have the rose petals that are included in the ras el hanout, but it was so good that we didn't really miss the rose flavor.

Meanwhile, I racked my brain for a dessert idea that would complement the meal. I finally decided to make a rice pudding - something mild and delicately flavored with coconut milk - but topped with fresh pineapple purée and a dried apricot garnish that echoed the apricot in the curry. I would have liked to have served the pudding warm but I had to make it in advance, so I prepared individual cups for everyone including little Sophie, and refrigerated them. (See "Lesson Learned" below)

I searched for a good rice pudding recipe, and as usual sort of put in my own flair, as explained below. Here's the url for a highly rated recipe I found posted by Erica G. :

We all had a great evening enjoying our "Dinner and a Movie". Brian and Elizabeth had seen Casablanca several times, but Corey and I got to see a great classic for the first time. I've spent a lot of time photographing the food (except for the raw image of the plated food taken by Elizabeth), playing in Photoshop, and finally writing this blog entry, but it was time well spent to document this adventure in cuisine and film. Check out Elizabeth's take on our Saturday get together at her blogspot A Girl In Her Kitchen



  • 3/4 cup uncooked white rice
  • 2 cups milk, divided
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2/3 cup golden raisins
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. In a medium saucepan, bring 1 1/2 cups water to a boil. Add rice and stir. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
  2. In another saucepan, combine 1 1/2 cups cooked rice, 1 1/2 cups milk, sugar and salt. Cook over medium heat until thick and creamy, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in remaining 1/2 cup milk, beaten egg and raisins. Cook 2 minutes more, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, and stir in butter and vanilla. Serve warm.

My Version:

I used 1 cup jasmine rice cooked in 1 cup coconut milk and 1 cup water, used my homemade clarified butter (ghee - it has a toasted nutty flavor) instead of regular butter, omitted the raisins, used the rest of the 12 oz. can of coconut milk with the remaining milk and beaten egg for the pudding, replaced white granulated sugar with Demerara Cane Sugar (has a molasses flavor- you can read about it at Wikipedia), added puréed fresh pineapple and dried apricot as garnishment, etc. In other words, I didn't really follow the recipe, I just used it as a reference guide.

Lesson Learned:

In retrospect the rice set up a little stiffer than I had liked - it was perfect when made, but while it was chilling the rice absorbed more of the creamy pudding than it would have if it had been served immediately. Also, the fresh pineapple was really light and frothy when it was first puréed, but expect some separation of liquid and pulp if it sits for a while. This will not affect the flavor, just the texture.

Easy Crockpot Moroccan Chicken

(We halved the recipe and it served 4, plus leftovers for 1)



1. Heat up olive oil in a frying pan/skillet & saute chopped onions & garlic for 5-10 minutes.

Add chicken stock & gradually mix in flour or cornflour until well mixed & not lumpy.Add honey & tomato paste & mix well.

Add herbs,spices & finely chopped ginger with salt & pepper to taste.

Finally add tinned tomatoes & mix well.

Pour the above tomato,onion & spice mix into slow cooker or tagine.

Add chicken & chickpeas & mix well.

Add dried apricots making sure they are covered by juice. (Add

the carrots if using.).

Give it a gentle but good stir to mix everything together well.

Crock Pot or Slow Cooker - Cook on high for about 3 to 4 hours OR automatic with keep warm facility for up to 8 hours. (Please note that the cooking times depend on your crockpot, the cooking times I have suggested work fine with mine which is a Morphy Richards Slow Cooker.).

If cooking in a Traditional Tagine, do as above & cook SLOWLY over gas or barbeque for about 2-3 hours.

Electric Tagine cooking - same as the slowcooker. If you need to thicken it up towards the end of the cooking time, add cornflour which has been mixed with a little water & add to the tagine - mix well.

Serve with freshly chopped Coriander/Cilantro sprinkled on top & either with couscous, rice, fresh flat bread, pitta bread or salads. It is also good (if not traditional) served with fluffy pureed or mashed potatoes & pasta.