Food The Chefs:

The Secret Souk Tagine

Scott Edwards

Morocco has always been a major source of inspiration in my world. Initially via its swirling décor and treasured objects: the rustic hand loomed rugs with their modern, geometric patterns, the craftsmanship of the artisanal filigree woodwork and the vibrant artisanal tiles. Yes, it’s fair to say that I totally swoon over Moroccan interiors. I first visited Morocco in 2006 with my husband and son who was 3-years-old at the time. I was designing our new home and longed to fill it with oddities and textiles that would lend an ethnic vibe to our modernist space. On our first night in Marrakesh, I was blown away by the home cooked meal we had at the riad we were staying in: a multi-flavored and intoxicating tagine. My son, Jivan, had been fully embraced by the kitchen staff and, despite the language barrier, a love of food united them instantly.

This continued for the next few nights, as he spent each evening boosted up on a chair to proudly help prepare our meal. By day he soaked in the chaotic and visually arresting souk with typical childlike wonder. So magic and vivid this holiday was for us all, that I vowed to experiment more with Moroccan flavors, bringing various special spices home with me to try my hand at a tagine. Moroccan food and décor is now a constant reference point for all that I approach.

Recently, a piece of Morocco turned up in the center of Soho, reminding me once more of its wonders. The Secret Souk was a limited dinner series held in a downtown loft that had been transformed into an elaborate nighttime Moroccan souk. Each night a group of 20 strangers gathered to feast on contemporary Moroccan fare created by chef Scott Edwards. Part culinary adventure and part shopping experience, every corner of the souk could be taken home with you. The ceramics, copper pots, tableware, Berber rugs, textiles, and bedding on sale only added to the exquisite dining experience.

Lucky for me, the brilliant team behind The Secret Souk has a close relationship with my girl and EyeSwoon photographer, Chloe Crespi. I was fortunate enough to step inside the awe inspiring kitchen there to create a meal with Chef Scott Edwards, whose pedigree has placed him in the kitchens of Estela in NYC and the Michelin starred Oud Slius in the Netherlands. Together we created a hearty veggie tagine with baked eggs, fresh herbs and shavings of radish—a modern twist on a classic dish that thrust me back inside the courtyard walls of our Marrakesh riad years before. I was thrilled to learn some new cooking techniques from Scott, but truth be told I had a hard time focusing! With all my senses heightened, I couldn’t resist exploring the marketplace at any minor pause in our work. In the end, I departed with a full belly and a car full of Eye-Swoon props: patinated trays, antique metal, rustic wooden bowls, and ethnic textiles. I’m strictly business, after all! 😉

Photography captured by Chloe Crespi

Tagine Baked Eggs

Scott Edwards

The Ingredients

For the Chili Paste:
1 large pasilla chili
5 cloves garlic
1 T sweet paprika
1 T pimenton
1 chili (aji dulce, serrano, thai bird etc.)
1 t cumin
1 t caraway
3 T grapeseed oil.

For the Tomato Sauce:
1/3 cup olive oil
2 pints yellow cherry tomatoes halved
1 yellow pepper medium diced
1 T tomato paste
1 T cumin

For the Cultured Buttermilk:
3 T buttermilk
1 cup whole milk

For the Herb Salad
2 radish, 1 bunch dill

Preserved lemons: 10 un-waxed lemons, kosher salt

3 eggs, 2 yolks

The Prep

Preserved lemons: Clean and sterilize a mason jar. Wash and dry the lemons. Juice half and the other half cut an x from the top all the way to the stem of the lemon while keeping the four pedals attached. Open each pedal and fill the lemon with kosher salt. After filling place each lemon in the jar, when all the lemons are inside fill the jar covering the lemons completely with lemon juice. Add the lid and fit lightly snug and let sit in a cool place for at least one month.

Cultured Buttermilk: Place the buttermilk and milk in a sterilized jar with a lid and let incubate for 24 hours until thick and sour, then refrigerate.

Chili Paste: put the dried chili in a bowl, cover with hot water and cover with plastic wrap. After 10 minutes, stem and seed the chili and cut into small pieces. Using a mortar and pestle (or food processor) pound the toasted cumin and caraway until fine. Then add the garlic cloves with a pinch of salt and pound to a paste. Next add the ground paprika, pimenton and grapeseed oil and grind till a paste forms.

For the eggs: Heat the tagine on the stove top over a medium flame. Add the olive oil and the chili paste, use a spoon to disperse and fry in the oil. Next add the diced yellow pepper, garlic and spices and sauté for a minute. Then add the tomato paste and cook for another minute. Next add the cherry tomatoes and cover the tagine with the lid and reduce the heat to low. After 10 minutes remove the lid and check the sauce consistency, it should be the consistency of a pasta sauce. Next create a small well for each egg and drop them in the sauce randomly. Return the lid to the tagine and continue cooking just until the whites are set.

To garnish, slice the radish thinly on a mandolin and pick the dill off the stems. Toss with lemon juice and olive oil and place over the dish. Finally add a drizzle of the cultured buttermilk and some thinly sliced preserved lemon rind (white inner pith removed).

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