As the sun dipped down above the High Atlas mountains, the pink plaster walls of the kasbah shone like bronze. The call to prayer from the Medieval Kasbah Mosque fell softly from its glorious minaret, the flickering lights from the Moroccan lantern threw jewels onto our table and, in the streets below, dozens of men and women dressed in their colourful djellabas went about their business, animated and chattering. Intermittently, a horse-drawn carriage, known as a calèche, would clatter over the uneven ground as it picked its way around the pedlars and the tourists walking up to the Jamaa el Fna to witness the Chleuh dancing boys, Berber storytellers, magicians, musicians, performers, henna artists and the macabre spectacle of piles of cooked sheep’s heads. It was all there on that balmy evening in late December, layers and layers of traditional nomadic life; we were sitting on the rooftop of our favourite cafe sipping mint tea from tiny painted glasses and, as night fell, we decided to stay; the music was cool and the ambiance was too mellow to walk away. We ordered a few small plates, a traditional brik stuffed with a spiced sweet potato mixture; maakouda, a Moroccan potato beignet served with a side of harissa and tomato sauce; grilled halloumi that had been marinated in a punchy chermoula; hummus and a simple salad of tomato and cucumber. It was a feast of flavours that I have never forgotten, especially the marriage of the gently spiced sweet potato as it yielded to the audaciously garlicky hummus; that was the inspiration for this sensuous sweet potato dip. I’m rather in love with it.
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 3cm pieces
1 tsp of cumin seeds
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for serving
1 tbsp grape molasses (you can also use maple syrup)
400g can of can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3 tbsp tahini paste
1 tsp pimentón picante (you can also use hot paprika)
2 large cloves of garlic, peeled
Juice of one lemon
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to your taste
Za’atar and toasted pine kernels, to serve
How I make it
Heat an oven to 220C.
Place the chopped sweet potato on a non-stick baking tray. Sprinkle with the cumin and drizzle with olive oil and the grape molasses. Season generously with sea salt. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the potato is soft and yielding. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
Then, in a food processor, add the sweet potato and all the other ingredients. Blend together for a few seconds and then gradually add cold water until you achieve your desired consistency. I like my quite coarse because I love the pops of flavour from sweet potatoes and spices. Season to your taste.
Transfer to the mixture to a beautiful dish. Drizzle with a little olive oil, the toasted pine kernels and a sprinkling of za’atar (I also added a couple of sprigs of pickled za’atar).
Any leftovers can be kept in a sealed container in the fridge for up to three days. In fact, this is even nicer the day after you make it.