MOROCCAN CHRISTMAS DINNER. North African and Middle Eastern recipes

IT was in Rabat, the beautiful capital of Morocco, that I first dined on turkey cooked North African style. I had been invited to a Moroccan home on one of the Muslim feast days. As a treat, a turkey had been prepared in my honor. Turkeys are cooked in Morocco only on special occasions, so I felt I was an esteemed guest.

As we sat around a low brass table eating chunks of savory pieces with our hands, I became enthralled with the aroma and flavor of the turkey. Never had I tasted such a delicious one.

Our host, in true North African fashion, would urge us on, offering us succulent morsels. But the turkey was so appetizing, I needed no encouragement.

Equally delectable was the roast lamb I had feasted upon amid the cedars in the Atlas Mountains a few days before.

A Berber friend in the town of Khenifra prepared a sumptuous diffa (feast) for us, in which mechoui (roast lamb) was one of the main dishes.

The lamb and the accompanying vegetable platters tasted so good that I have never forgotten that great Moroccan feast.

I HAD grown up in western Canada, and, because of my family's heritage, I'd been nourished on Arab food. This had made me appreciate zesty but not over-spiced dishes. Yet for years - perhaps because of embarrassment - I dared not tell any outsider about this cuisine, which we had consumed in southern Saskatchewan during my youth.

But as the years rolled by, I decided that others should enjoy the delicacies of the Middle East. I was thinking of this as I feasted on that savory turkey in Morocco, and suddenly it struck me: Why not have a North American Christmas dinner prepared with the taste of North Africa and the Middle East?

Without doubt, a festive meal cooked with the exotic touch from that part of the world would appeal to many cooks. A repast, flavored with the herbs and spices of these countries, would be a unique experience, which lovers of gourmet food would want to savor.

Such is this Christmas dinner prepared with the condiments of North Africa and the Middle East. When served - to use the well-known expression - ``It's a dinner `fit for kings.'''

Roast Turkey With a Moroccan Taste 1 turkey 10 to 12 pounds, cleaned and washed (retain gizzards and wash, then cut in small pieces) 3 tablespoons lemon juice 3 teaspoons salt 5 tablespoons cooking oil 1/2 pound beef sausage, cut into small pieces 2 medium-size onions, chopped 4 cloves garlic, crushed 4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh coriander leaves 1 hot pepper, very finely chopped 4 cups toasted and ground bread crumbs 3/4 cup pulverized blanched almonds 1/2 cup raisins, rinsed 1 teaspoon rosemary 1 cup water 3/4 cup butter 1 teaspoon sage 1 teaspoon thyme 1 teaspoon pepper 1 teaspoon cinnamon 1 teaspoon ground ginger 1/2 cup honey, melted 1/8 teaspoon cayenne Pinch of saffron

Rub turkey inside and out with a mixture of lemon juice and 2 teaspoons salt. Set aside.

In frying pan, heat oil. Stir-fry gizzards and sausage over medium heat until starting to brown, then add onions, garlic, coriander leaves, and hot pepper. Stir-fry 15 minutes.

Stir in bread crumbs, almonds, raisins, rosemary, water, remaining 1 teaspoon salt, 4 tablespoons butter, and half of the following: sage, thyme, pepper, cinnamon, and ginger. Stir-fry a few minutes to complete the stuffing.

Stuff turkey, including neck opening, and sew closed. Then tie legs to tail and wings to sides, and place in roaster on rack.

Make basting juice by mixing remaining sage, thyme, pepper, cinnamon, ginger, honey, cayenne, saffron, 4 tablespoons butter, and 11/2 cups water. Baste turkey and cover.

Bake in 350-degree F. preheated oven 2 hours, basting every 20 minutes and turning turkey over after 11/2 hours. Then after 2 hours uncover and bake for a further 1 hour, or until turkey is cooked, basting every 20 minutes.

Remove turkey to serving platter. Make sauce by adding remaining 4 tablespoons butter to pan juices.

Place sauce in gravy bowl, and serve with turkey.

Roast Lamb, Moroccan Style 1 leg of lamb, about 6 pounds with fat trimmed 1/2 clove garlic 2 teaspoons salt 2 teaspoons ground coriander 2 teaspoons cumin 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika 1 1/2 teaspoons ginger 1 teaspoon pepper 1 teaspoon oregano 1/8 teaspoon cayenne 1/2 cup olive oil

Make a number of deep slots in leg of lamb, then place in baking pan and set aside.

Mix remaining ingredients to make paste, then rub heavily all areas on outside of leg and inside slots until all paste is used.

Bake uncovered in a 350-degree F. preheated oven for 2 hours, basting every 30 minutes with pan juices. Turn leg over once.

Place under broiler for few minutes on each side to brown, then serve hot.

Parsley and Tomato Salad 1 large bunch parsley, washed, stemmed, and chopped 1 small bunch green onions, trimmed, washed, and finely chopped 4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh coriander leaves 2 medium-size tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch cubes 1/2 cup green olives, pitted and chopped 1 clove garlic, crushed 1 teaspoon dried mint 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon pepper 3 tablespoons olive oil 4 tablespoons lemon juice

In salad bowl place parsley, onions, coriander leaves, tomatoes, and olives. Gently toss and set aside.

Make sauce with rest of the ingredients, then pour over vegetables. Toss just before serving.

Lima Beans in Olive Oil 1 1/2 pounds fresh or frozen lima beans 4 tablespoons olive oil 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh coriander leaves 3 cloves garlic, crushed 1 1/2 teaspoons salt 1/2 teaspoon paprika 1/2 teaspoon pepper 1/2 teaspoon ginger 1 1/2 cups water 2 tablespoons lemon juice

Place all ingredients except lemon juice in saucepan and bring to a boil. Then cover and cook over medium heat 30 minutes, or until beans are done.

Stir in lemon juice, then remove from heat. Serve either hot or cold.

Spiced Mashed Potatoes 5 medium-size potatoes, peeled, washed, and chopped into large pieces 4 tablespoons butter 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh coriander leaves 1 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon pepper 1/8 teaspoon cumin

In saucepan, place potatoes and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook over medium heat until well done.

Drain potatoes, and thoroughly mash. Then stir in remaining ingredients, and serve hot.

Carrots With Raisins 5 tablespoons butter 1 pound carrots, scraped, washed, and cut into 1/4-inch thick rounds 2 medium-size onions, finely chopped 1 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg 1/2 cup white grape juice 1/2 cup raisins, rinsed A few sprigs of parsley

In frying pan, melt butter and stir-fry carrots over medium heat for 5 minutes. Stir in remaining ingredients except raisins and parsley, and cover.

Turn heat to low, and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring once in a while. Stir in raisins and simmer for a further 30 minutes, or until carrots are well cooked, stirring a few times.

Place in shallow bowl and decorate with parsley sprigs.

Serve hot.

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