I think of cumin and coriander as ying and yang, two different but intertwined spices. The one brings out the best in the other. This is what makes the North African chermoula so very irresistible. Here, the addition of fresh herbs ensures that this spicy, zesty sauce raises the humble potato to new heights. More to the point, I thought of this potato dish as a North African cousin to the Spanish patatas bravas.
In 1492, when King Boabdil of Granada, the last of the Nasrid rulers, was ousted by the Catholic Monarchs of Spain, he fled south, stopping briefly in the Valle de Lecrín, before fleeing to Fez. Fed by the waters from the Sierra Nevada that dominate the skyline, the Lecrín Valley is rich in citrus, olive and almond groves. This tapenade combines all three flavours in equal balance, and so I think of it as a homage to this truly beautiful part of the world.
The Indian raita is a cousin of the Greek or Turkish tzatziki and a distinct blessing when faced with chilli hot curries or spicy dishes. It is also very refreshing on its own, with flatbread. There are many variations of the raita, since it lends itself to different combinations of vegetables and herbs — try swapping the cucumber here for grated carrots or radishes and the mint for fresh coriander — or, if you want a bit of colour on your table, swap the cucumber for beetroot and the mint for dill. In essence, the raita is just a fresh salad dressed in yoghourt.
Recently, my lovely nieces Lilly, aged 14, and Monica, aged 12, came over from North America, where they live. As we had not met before, I was not sure what their tastes in food might be. They came over on the first stop of tricontinental trip and had spent the day sightseeing across London. Being in a different place and a different time zone was no doubt a bit exhausting even if exciting, and so, for want of better ideas, I thought some comfort food in the form of a pasta dish might not be a bad idea. Also, as it happens, my son quite liked this dish when he was a child. I was touched when, after the meal and after a visit to Taste Trail, Lilly and Monica suggested that the pasta dish they had just had should be featured.