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ON THE SPOTLIGHT

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Eat & Drink | Marrakesh

Courtyard Kitchen: A Pop Up Restaurant at El Fenn Words by Tara Stevens

“I love to let a single ingredient shine and then layer it up with sauces, or stews as a back note, and picadas, or relishes to add brightness to finished dishes.”

I’m so excited because for the rest of November and through until December 16th I’m taking over the kitchen at El Fenn as the Courtyard Kitchen’s very first pop-up. Not only is it one of my very favourite hotels on earth, but it’s a fantastic opportunity to understand the food business from the other side of the table so to speak.

For me preparing everything freshly, every single day, is the base of everything I cook and I think helps to create dishes that are packed with flavour of place, without being necessarily of place. I don’t want to compete with local cooks on their most traditional and beloved dishes like couscous and tagine, they do it better than I ever could. Instead, I use those traditional recipes as the backbone of the flavour I want to create and see where the gods of the kitchen take me.

 

Right now I’m obsessed with a sweet and sour preserved lemon, parsley, almond and citrus picada that I’m using on a roasted vegetable platter starter. And the pomegranates are out of this world. Product is so insanely fresh and alive here, it’s very difficult to go wrong with it. 

 

On the menu right now is a southern Indian lentil dish infused with coconut, and topped it with white fish—a skinless, boneless John Dory filet that’s been marinated in rosewater and harissa (the salt in the harissa makes it the firmest, juiciest morsel you can imagine), which is then fried in bread crumbs. I roast cauliflower in ras al hanout, and sandwich it between an herb tahini cream and a typically Spanish romesco that’s been spiked with cumin and orange. My pasta dish uses lamb merguez and fennel, which is in season right now, to create of a big bowl of something comforting and familiar. And yes, sprinkling on Parmesan with wild abandon is encouraged. A winter berry almond cake is served with rose water labne, my chocolate pot is infused with oranges and cardamom, and when my spiced brandied figs are ready in a week or two, they will be paired with a gooey goat’s cheese from Essaouira.

 

I have the utmost respect for traditional cooking and flavours, they form the back bone of any great cuisine, but when you start to play around and break the rules you never know where you’ll end up.

 

The Courtyard Kitchen at El Fenn is open every evening from now until December 15th.

Reservations: restaurant@el-fenn.com

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