If you’re going to get lost somewhere in the world, make it Morocco. You can wander around the markets, or souks, for hours and never get bored. There are snake charmers and antiques, gorgeous textiles, spices and amazing food to boot.
Moroccan cuisine, like Morocco itself, is a feast for the senses. Dishes are often seasoned with a mixture of spices, condiments and aromatic herbs (like cardamom, saffron, rose water, aniseed and licorice) and strike a perfect balance of different flavor combinations, such as sweet and salty. One of the best ways to experience this is in a Moroccan tajine. Made in a deep earthenware pot, tajines are a combination of different fruits and vegetables and fish, meat or chicken that has been simmered for hours. A favorite Moroccan tajine is mutton with quince and honey. The flavors become super rich and the meat incredibly tender.
After the tajines comes couscous. A staple grain in Morocco, couscous makes a beautiful foundation for spicy stews or mixtures of slow-cooked vegetables like zucchini, with turnips, raisins and onions. It’s typically made in Morocco with two stocks—one to steam the grain (it can be steamed as many as three times to get the right consistency) and another to flavor it. It’s not unusual to see sweet couscous with dried fruit and cinnamon served as a dessert.
Even if you’re oceans away from the nearest souk, you still can get a little lost in this recipe for Moroccan Glazed Vegetables with Orange Mint Couscous.
Lyon has more than enough reasons to brag. The city is the silk capital of France and the birthplace of cinema. The entire old quarter, Le Vieux Lyon, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. But, perhaps most importantly, Lyon is the gastronomic hub of France and one of the best places to eat on the planet.
The people of Lyon have long been foodies. The Meres Lyonnaise (aka Mothers of Lyon) put Lyon on the map in the late 1900s when a group of female cooks working for Lyon’s wealthy families started opening their own eateries. The dishes were simple but elegant and rich in local ingredients, such as fruits and vegetables, freshwater fish and chicken. They cultivated Lyon’s reputation for gorgeous charcuterie, bone marrow consommé and quenelles made with pike fish. The small restaurants would come to be known as bouchons, the heart of Lyon’s culinary scene even today. (Daniel et Denise, where Chef Joseph Viola cooks up amazing dishes, is one of my favorites.)
The Meres Lyonnaise were more than just good home cooks. One of the most famous meres, Eugénie Brazier, was the first woman to be awarded three Michelin stars. She even trained the legendary Lyon Chef Paul Bocuse, who began his cooking career in her kitchen.
Bocuse is an outstanding chef, so on my recent trip to Lyon, I made a plan to eat at Bocuse (officially called L'Auberge du Pont de Collonges), his three-Michelin star restaurant just outside of Lyon. I even talked it up to a couple in the hotel lobby who was looking for a place to eat. I was in Lyon to film my latest show Around the World in 80 Plates and, as often happens on a set, filming went super late. I missed dinner.
I ran into the couple again in the lobby the next morning. They had gone to Bocuse—and had an unforgettable meal. Bocuse himself had posed for pictures with them and signed their menus. That was supposed to be my dinner!
Lyon’s cuisine is extremely varied. But if there is one ingredient that encompasses the food, you could argue it’s the onion. You can smell cooking onions coming from the kitchens in Le Vieux Lyon at lunchtime. It’s intoxicating. Experience it for yourself with this recipe for Onion Tarts with Tomme de Savoie Cheese.
I lived in London for eight years in my 20s. Working in the crazy world of Marco Pierre White’s kitchens, it was nice to know that there were things about the city you could count on. For instance, the pubs would close early. The sun would be missing in action throughout most of the winter. And Sunday dinner would be a proper meal of gorgeous roast beef with roasted potatoes and Yorkshire pudding.
Like so many things in Britain, Yorkshire pudding dates back centuries. The first recipe is said to have appeared in 1737 in a cookbook called The Whole Duty of a Woman. In those days, it was known as dripping pudding because the uncooked batter would be placed under the roast to collect the falling fat and juices. Today’s puddings aren’t much different from the original; they’re now commonly made into smaller individual puddings, rather than one large one, and they’re taller. In fact, the Royal Society of Chemistry (yes that really exists) said in 2008 that “a Yorkshire pudding isn't a Yorkshire pudding if it is less than four inches tall.”
Now before you go hunting for a ruler, let’s be perfectly clear about a few things: Yorkshire pudding doesn’t look or taste anything like the thick, custard-like pudding kids across the globe carry in their lunchboxes. It’s actually a cross between a popover and a soufflé. And while it’s sometimes eaten with butter and jam, the Yorkshire puddings I dream of are served with juicy roast beef and horseradish cream.
They’re a breeze to make. All you need are eggs, flour, milk and oil. My Gran was from Yorkshire and I’m certain she used lard, but oil works wonderfully. The trick to getting those four inches is a very hot oven (400 degrees F) and batter that’s super smooth, without any lumps.
Ready to channel your inner Anglophile? Next Sunday, try this Standing Roast Rib of Beef with Dijon, Garlic and Yorkshire Puddings.