My pantry

Youthful stupidity in Morocco and Chermoula fish

July 30, 2013

Chermoula fish with nutty cous cous ingredientsBy the time I was 21 I thought I knew everything about everything.

I’ll freely admit I was probably old beyond my years, but with the benefit of hindsight I can say I was still fairly clueless in many ways. Or perhaps I just thought I was invincible, like every 21 year old.

I was on my big world adventure and I was finding Europe too damned cold, so my bestie and I thought we’d head on down to Morocco to seek some winter sunshine, and good hash. I used to be a fairly enthusiastic smoker in my early twenties and I’d heard fabulous reports of the Moroccan produce, namely from my Dad, who may have also been enthusiastic whilst in the sunny climes of Northern Africa.

In many countries where the locals try to rip you off, I’ve always felt it was done in fairly good humor. Just a little good-natured grifting, shall we say. The thing I found about Morocco was there was often a sense of malice involved. I felt threatened on more than one occasion and there was an electric zing of danger in the air. I tried to take a photo of a dirty little urchin child and a man came yelling and threatening me with his fists…

‘Don’t photograph this child. Take pictures of the nice children’ he cried with anger.

Our guidebook said ‘if a local family invites you to dinner, go, and see how the locals live’, so when we were invited to stay with a family we jumped at the chance. The first night was magical. They sang a traditional song, we sang Alanis Morissette. They hennaed our hands for an exorbitant fee and sent us to a local bathhouse where I was scrubbed head to foot by a woman with pendulous bosoms that slapped me around the head as she scrubbed away my desert grime.
The ‘Uncle’ had organised a block of hashish for us, so we giggled our way through the evening.

Fun was had by all.

chermoula fish ready for ovenThe next night things went weird.

Firstly, I’ll admit that the dope was great, so we were not thinking wisely.

Secondly, whenever we were asked for cash for stuff we handed it over. Money for dinner, money for this, money for that. It seemed ok, until suddenly – it didn’t.

Then thirdly, an unidentified nocturnal visitor in my sleep frightened the bejesus out of us so when ‘Uncle’ suggested we leave Fez and head off to his hash farm at the base of the Atlas Mountains we jumped at the chance.

What a pair of boobs.

No one knew where we were or where we were going. We sweet, young fools thought it sounded like a great adventure.

It was like stepping into Twin Peaks.

There was a laughing toothless dwarf, someone from the compound followed us every time we tried to go for a walk, and people would walk into our room whenever we tried to have a moment’s privacy.

I’d say we were fairly interesting creatures for the locals, but being as our paranoia had kicked in royally by, now nothing felt right, and everything had a David Lynch filter.

Anyway, after a sleepless night we made a daring early morning escape. No idea where we were going just found a road that looked slightly less like a dirt track and got on the first bus, loaded with chickens and locals headed god knew where. Thankfully, it took us back to Fez.

I look back now and thing how stupid we were. Crazy fools.

Bloody great memories though.

I’ll be terrified when my kids decide to travel. It’s inevitable, coming from two traveling parents… and don’t even talk to me about educating them about drugs. I just hope they have more of Mister H’s genes than mine, when it comes to that matter. He was much more controlled and sensible than I.

This recipe is inspired by my Moroccan adventure.

chermoula fish with nutty cous cousChermoula Fish with Nutty Cous Cous

Yield  – 2 adults and two toddlers

What you will need :

  • 600g firm white fish (ie blue eye,  barramundi)
  • A good handful of parsley leaves
  • a good handful of coriander, including stalks
  • juice of half a lemon
  • one clove garlic
  • a teaspoon of cumin
  • a fat pinch salt
  • a glug of olive oil
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped into wedges
  • 1 roast capsicum, jarred or home roasted, seeds removed, cut into chunks
  • 6 green olives, smashed to remove pips
  • 1 cup cous cous
  • a handful of chopped coriander
  • some roasted pistachios
  • 1/2 a preserved lemon

What you will need to do :

Cut your fish into large chunks. Place into a baking dish large enough to house it all.

Throw your parsley, coriander, garlic, lemon juice, salt, cumin and olive oil into a little food processor or mortar and pestle and smash it all together.

Coat your fish and leave to marinate for an hour or so.

Preheat oven to 200C.

Add chopped tomato and roast capsicum and place around the fish. Chuck your smashed olives on top and cover with foil and stick in the oven for about 20 mins or until fish is just cooked through.

Meanwhile, cook your cous cous according to packet instructions. Add a dollop of butter to it when you’re at the fluffing stage. Add chopped roasted pistachios, preserved lemon (flesh removed, skin only), and remaining handful of coriander. I also liked to add a good pinch of lemon pepper, but you can season however you like.

Just stay away from hash.

Drugs are bad, m’kay?

chermoula fish with nutty cous cous

Do you have any crazy travel misadventures?

Cook Once, Feed All COVER_lr

Cook Once, Feed All is about making your life easier whilst preparing nutritious and quick food for your family. Hailed by Mouths of Mums as the ‘must have recipe book for all families’, this book is a collection of family friendly recipes, all accompanied by stories from my life.

To order your hardcopy of Cook Once, Feed All  head to the Holsby Shop right now.

If you like what you’re reading why not like my Facebook page now or subscribe via email, to be sure to always keep up with the Holsbys.

You Might Also Like


  • Reply homelifesimplified July 30, 2013 at 7:10 am

    What a crazy adventure. Morocco is on my bucket list, hoping to manage it northern winter 2014!

    I hear you about being terrified when our kids start travelling. When hubby and I first traveled together (we met in Israel as travellers) we went to Jordan and ended up hitching a ride into the desert. Our drivers were heading to a Bedouin wedding and invited us along, long story short – separated based on gender, lots of fun until under the guise of taking me to hubby our driver kept going and kidnapped me for a while. All ended ok but I remember telling my mother this story and she replied “please don’t tell me anything from now on” she was not sleeping well while I was traveling !! Deb xx

  • Reply Gary Lum July 30, 2013 at 7:14 am

    Great story and great recipe. Not sure I’d be that adventurous 🙂

  • Reply Bunny Eats Design July 30, 2013 at 9:47 am

    You are a nutty cous cous!

    Great story. Glad it nothing bad happened. I love traveling in foreign lands and you are right on the good-natured grifting. Everyone is just trying to make a living. You humour them or you move on. No point in getting mad about a little money. Money can be replaced.

    Your recipe looks fantastic. Robust but still light (though I guess it depends on how much you eat).

    One time The Koala and I were on the streets of Hanoi and got approached by a shoe shine. I declined, no way was I getting my crappy old sneakers done.

    Over there, you refer to currency in the thousands. When you say 50, you actually mean 50,000 dong and that converts to about $2. So they were saying “50! 50!” so The Koala obliged. $2US is the price of a meal for one or two just to put it into perspective. Then suddenly more shoe shiners appeared and my shoes are removed (at my protest) and both of us are getting our shoes resoled and restitched.

    We’re standing in scuffs wondering what we just signed up for. When they were done they demand 1 million Vietnamese dong or $50 US. EACH. There’s a pack of them and they’re getting angry. They all have knives in their kits. Though I’m sure it’s mostly performance.

    In the end I open my wallet wide and give them everything in there. I know that I don’t have much in there (about $25US) so I’m performing too.

    • Reply Keeping Up With The Holsbys July 30, 2013 at 11:01 am

      Dude, my Birkenstocks got a forced resoling in Hanoi!! I got ripped too.

      I’m laughing at the thought of your shiny sneakers though.

      Sent from my iPhone

      On 30/07/2013, at 9:47 AM, Keeping Up With The Holsbys

  • Reply Eleise July 30, 2013 at 11:24 am

    Yum! That fish looks great! I had always planned to go to Morocco when I lived in Europe but didn’t make it! I have done some silly things when travelling too, I am scared when my kids do it! I guess there is no such thing as a wise young man.

  • Reply Toushka Lee (@Toushkalee) July 30, 2013 at 12:01 pm

    Awesome travelling story. Brought back memories of my own travels. The recipe looks delish! Not going to happen in my kitchen though. Maybe I’ll come over next time you’re cooking it. I’ll bring the hash…. or maybe just the wine 🙂

    • Reply Keeping Up With The Holsbys July 30, 2013 at 12:03 pm

      That’s so funny! Wine is fine. Drugs are bad, m’kay!!

      Sent from my iPhone

      On 30/07/2013, at 12:01 PM, Keeping Up With The Holsbys

  • Reply ksbeth July 30, 2013 at 12:23 pm

    what an amazing adventure. when i look back at all of the choices i made, without really thinking them through, i feel lucky i am alive and well – but irreplaceable memories nonetheless. )

  • Reply always josefa (@always_josefa) July 30, 2013 at 4:39 pm

    Fantastic story to share! I dread when my boys tell me they want to go travelling one day. Although my 4 year old did pack his bags and declare he was off to Croatia last week. Luckily he only got as far as the front door. Your recipes and photos are amazing x Josefa from #teamIBOT

  • Reply momsasaurus July 31, 2013 at 3:13 am

    Please find someone to turn that story into a movie! Because I totally want to see it. I’m thinking Woody Allen….

  • Reply Have a laugh on me July 31, 2013 at 1:27 pm

    Some gorgeous looking kai there girl! As for crazy adventures, I’ve had a few, when I was 20 in NY and thought I knew it all, the hubby has done MUCH worse when travelling around the globe. But then when we were together in Sydney, oh if the clubs could talk! Freaks me out about what our children might do, especially if they are a mixture of both us – we’re in for some naughty years ahead 🙂

  • Reply Dani @ Sand Has No Home July 31, 2013 at 9:06 pm

    I am so making that recipe! Yum!
    It is terrifying what things we thought were a good idea at the time in our youth. It does make for a great dinner party conversation though doesn’t it! 🙂

    • Reply Keeping Up With The Holsbys July 31, 2013 at 9:15 pm

      It most certainly does!! I don’t regret a second of my stupidity.

      Sent from my iPhone

      On 31/07/2013, at 9:06 PM, Keeping Up With The Holsbys

  • Reply EssentiallyJess August 1, 2013 at 10:58 am

    Holy Crap! I’m surprised you didn’t end up on the news! Or at the very least a hollywood blockbuster!
    I’ve never travelled much, but hope to one day. I want to take the kids with me 🙂

  • Reply Melissa {Suger} August 2, 2013 at 5:56 pm

    Ooooo looks gorgeous! Pinning this for SURE!

  • Reply Zanni Arnot August 2, 2013 at 8:32 pm

    Oh my gosh, what a crazy trip! I had a pretty subdued time in Morocco actually. (I was also 21). I was heart broken, and travelling with my Dad, who speaks French and Arabic, so I had a completely different experience of Morocco than you, by the sounds of it. I had a wild night on my own once in Bangkok. I was bored and lonely, so got talking to a friendly person, who suggested we have a drink before my connecting fllght. I stupidly followed him through the streets of Bangkok, on my own. He kept saying, “It’s just over here,” and I trustingly went along with it. Next thing, I found myself at a small dingy hotel with two very strong looking men, one of which was asking to marry me, and telling me he loved me. Sh*T. I talked my way out of the situation miraculously and found myself back in the streets again, completely lost. Nobody spoke any English, so I couldn’t ask directions. I can’t even remember how I navigated my way back to the hotel, but I got back just in time to grab my stuff and catch my flight to India. The fact that I found India a breeze will tell you that I had a pretty crazy time in Bangkok! I lose my bearings when I am travelling alone. I did have a crazy experience in Barcelona one time, too. But that’s a different story! xx

    • Reply Keeping Up With The Holsbys August 3, 2013 at 8:50 pm

      Is your Dad Moroccan? How does he know Arabic? If that’s the case, mixed with Dutch, your girls are walking Benneton ads!!
      I think part of the beauty of traveling when you’re young is you don’t have any fear. Makes for great adventure.

      So pleased you didn’t marry the random Thai. That would never have worked out 😉

  • Reply Jodi Gibson August 2, 2013 at 9:50 pm

    What an adventure but could have gone so horribly wrong! I’m such a square when it comes to travelling and safety, husband on the other hand… well let’s just say together we are a good balance. That food looks devine too!

  • Reply Kymmie @ a day in the life of us August 3, 2013 at 5:31 pm

    What a story! And the food looks amazing! Popping in from Weekend Rewind. xx

  • Reply Joyce August 3, 2013 at 11:46 pm

    What an adventure! The kind that only a couple of 20-somethings can have. Beyond that age, you’ve seen way too much in the news to ever surrender in such a way.

    I once took a spontaneous camping trip with my best friend when we were in our 20’s. We knew almost nothing about camping. The first night we spent in the hotel because there was a typhoon warning. The next two nights we camped with the very limited camping supplies that we had borrowed. Those supplies did not include lanterns or flashlights, so lighting at night was provided by candles. How silly we were.

  • Reply Author Bek Mugridge (@bekmugridge) August 4, 2013 at 8:40 pm

    What a fantastic adventure and that recipe looks incredible XX

  • Reply maxabella August 7, 2013 at 3:56 pm

    Crazy fools have the best time and almost always live to tell the tale. I’m okay with that. Good food too! x

  • Leave a Reply

    %d bloggers like this: