One of my favourite restaurants in the world is La Merendain Nice, France – a simple little hole-in-the-wall whose internationally celebrated reputation is based on it signature dish: tagliatelle au pistou. Tagliatelleis merely French for the famous Italian pasta tagliatelle– pistouis a basil-based sauce that looks similar to a traditional Genovese pesto, but doesn’t include pine nuts and it more heavy-handed on the garlic.
Tagliatelle au pistouis humble, delicious food – and after a day on Nice’s rocky beach, it is a bowl of heaven when paired with some Côtes de Provence Rosé.
This is a dish that requires about five ingredients, and yet it is the personification of the deliciousness and abundance of Provenacal cuisine, to the extent that La Merenda’s proprietorDominique Le Stanc abandoned his long career as a renowned Michelin-starred chef to dedicate himself to mastering tagliatelle au pistou.
Last time I enjoyed the signature dish at La Merenda, I wondered what is the tagliatelle au pistou of Moroccan cuisine for me was. Which dish did I enjoy in my youth in Casablanca that was as delicious as it was simple? Which dish – its humbleness notwithstanding – utterly evaded my ability to master it? Which dish did I long for when I was homesick for Morocco? The answer was clear – crevettes marinieres.
Crevettes marinieres is simply king prawns cooked in a spicy tomato sauce and I would frequently enjoy it at this small, quaint restaurant in Casablanca over 30 years ago. This simple eatery sold only prawns, calamari, grilled sardines and chips – despite its limited offering, its quality was such that there would be a queue around the block nearly at all times of the day. Their simple, humble food was made fresh and with love and – as a result – tasted beyond amazing.
When I finally moved to Britain, whenever I longed for Morocco, I would attempt to make crevettes marinieres at home.
While what I made was tasty… it wasn’t the same. I kept trying… and trying… but as if I were stuck in culinary quick sand, the more ferocious my attempts to recreate the dish, the further removed the flavour was from the original version. I was cursed to live a life in which I was separated by miles and miles from my favourite comfort food.
And then I had an epiphany, a brazenly obvious one. Two years ago I went back to Casablanca to visit family and friends. One of the first things I did was visit my favourite hole-in-the-wall to dive headlong into a portion of crevettes marinieres. After practically licking the plate clean, I did the unthinkable – I went up to kind man behind the counter and asked him for the recipe. He obliged!
Good things – sometimes – come to those who wait. I waited nearly 30 years for this recipe and now I can cook crevettes marinieres whenever I choose. I can do two more things, too – I can cook them for you, Zayane’s patrons, and I can also share this secret recipe with you, too.
This recipe is extremely special to me and it will give you the taste of Moroccan cuisine that is possibly even lost on a restaurant of Zayane’s quality.
This recipe for crevettes marinieres will give you the humble, delicious food that will take your palate on a trip to the street food of Casablanca, Morocco.
Please get in touch on Instagramor Twitterto tell me what you think of this recipe. Better yet, come to Zayane and tell me directly! If you have any questions or if you are running into trouble, get in touch, too!
Recipe for Crevettes Marinieres
- 3 tbsp olives olive oil
- 1 jar of chopped tomatoes or 1 kg fresh tomatoes skinned and chopped
- 2 tbsp chopped parsley
- 2 chopped fresh chilli
- 1 tbsp cumin
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp sugar
- 3 garlic cloves chopped finely
- 1 small onion finely chopped
- 1 kg king prawns
- salt and pepper
- fresh bread to serve
- Heat oil in a pan add all ingredients but not the prawns. Cook for at least 20 minutes on low heat.
- Add the prawns just before serving and cook for 3 min (this sauce can be made in advance and kept in the fridge for two days).
- Adjust seasoning and served with fresh bread.