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A contemporary take on Moorish cooking

NOOR

A new restaurant in southern Spain offers a contemporary take on Moorish cooking

A new restaurant in southern Spain offers a contemporary take on Moorish cooking

Paul Richardson | August/September 2016

While northern Europe in the Dark Ages subsisted on turnips cooked a dozen ways, the food of Moorish Spain was a panoply of delicate aromas, spices and exotic fruits. That history inspired Paco Morales, the young chef behind a new restaurant in Córdoba. Working with historians and anthropologists, and using only ingredients that were current in tenth-century Andalusian kitchens (no tomato, peppers or potato, no cacao or pork), Morales has devised a refined new cuisine which manages to be authentic yet entirely novel.

The chef’s creations at Noor (“light” in Arabic), as rich in detail as Persian miniatures, are not so much recreations of historical dishes as a contemporary take on them, using the same flowers and pungent herbs. The menu degustación trips from chard with smoked goat butter to partridge with rose escabeche. It is all highly original and, even at 15 courses, somehow wonderfully light.

And there’s a clear stand-out dish: Karim of pine nuts with spring melon, Sahara sea-urchin and fresh oregano. The description needs a little unpacking. “Karim” is Morales’s own designation, an Arabic forename meaning “kind”. The “sea-urchin”, which feels in the mouth a little like fish roe, turns out to be millet, a grain. The tiny cubes of melon are flavoured with ras el hanout, a north-African spice mixture. These, with the herb leaves and a drop or two of sage oil, float on a sea of thick pine-nut cream. Despite being on a Lilliputian scale the dish packs big flavours with interesting textures. It looks gorgeous on its grey-fringed Moorish plate, commissioned from a local potter.

“We are rediscovering our culinary roots in the history of southern Spain,” says Morales. “The north has had its moment. This is ours.”

noorrestaurant.es 
Menú Madinat Al-Zahra 15 courses, €90

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