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Intrepid chef tackles wilds of Morocco

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Jenny Morris, Cape Town celebrity chef, and owner of Giggling Gourmet Restaurant in Napier Street, hosts a media luncheon to introduce her new appearance on Food Africa Channel, launched by the BBC, which has her as a host cooking Moroccan style food, in Morocco, and will be broadcast in 86 countries. PICTURE: THOMAS HOLDER

Cape Town - Celebrity chef “giggling gourmet” Jenny Morris was attacked by bees, kicked by a donkey and offered camels in exchange for her hand in marriage – all while filming her latest cooking series in Morocco.

Jenny Morris Cooks Morocco is the first locally commissioned series for DStv’s Food Network channel and will start screening next month.

Morris, who took along only her meat cleaver and a few pans for the Moroccan trip, spent six weeks covering over 6 000km and visiting 10 locations in the country.

An experienced traveller, she says she was lured back to Morocco to do the show. “The people are humble, generous and kind. And it definitely comes through in their food,” she explains.

Morris says Moroccans live and cook by the season, and marvels that all ingredients are fresh.

If it is in season, it’s available. If not, the cooks wait all year for the ingredient to come into season again.

Morris says the fresh produce market traders sell whatever they can during the day. At the end, whatever is left over is free for anyone to take.

“Nobody goes hungry there. We could take a leaf out of their book.’’

Morris explored the entire landscape and travelled from the top of the Atlas mountains to the Sahara desert. She also spent time fishing with a handline on a boat in the Mediterranean.

“The water was so clear I could see all the way down and saw the fish hooked on to the line,” she says.

But that is where her luck with animals ran out.

For one of the shows, she and her crew had to collect honey. Fully dressed in a beekeeper’s suit, she mistakenly wore sandals and the bees went straight for her feet.

She was also kicked by an unwilling donkey.

But would she do it all over again? “Yes,” says Morris.

One of her most memorable events is the perfume ceremony performed on her.

She laughs as she describes how the women placed a bucket with steaming coals underneath her. They added various oils, like musk and amber, and then more than 20 women sprayed her with different perfumes.

And just when she thought it was over, they put roll-on on her hair.

In one of the episodes, a man Morris was cooking for repeatedly pinched her bottom as the cameras stopped rolling. He then offered her camels for her hand in marriage, but she rebutted him with a cheeky, “I only take cash”.

Morris says while the dishes made on the show are traditionally Moroccan, she does add her own unique, local flavour as it would be pointless making purely Moroccan dishes for Moroccans.

And her next stop? She hopes to go to Portugal, which she feels has made major culinary contributions but never got any credit

Morris says she’ll never criticise people’s food and cooking styles. Her only request is that the ingredients are fresh.

She’s tasted “a lot of the world” but when at home, enjoys “normal” food. Her favourites include baked potato and simple grilled chicken, And while she loves pap and wors, her children love mince and rice.

When she cooks at home, Morris says it’s not a lavish affair: “It goes straight from the pot to the plate.”

She says her love affair with food began as a child when she would bake treats for school fundraisers.

In 1997 she created the Giggling Gourmet Cook’s Playground in the city and in the last 15 years has broadcast more than 1 000 radio shows and three local TV series and published three cookbooks.

And it seems her passion for food has rubbed off on her 21-year-old son, and whether it’s pizza, pasta or bread they’re having, he’ll go into the kitchen and start kneading dough from scratch.

“Empower your boys. Teach them how to cook,” Morris urges mothers.

Her latest series started in the UK on Monday, June 25 and will be screened in SA and 86 other countries from July 16.

Nick Thorogood, managing director of Food Network (Europe, Middle East and Africa), says he knew he had found talent within 10 seconds of meeting Morris.

He describes her action-packed adventure through the North African country as “extraordinary”.

“I’m thrilled and really proud to work with Jenny,” says Thorogood.

Morris is also over the moon.

* Follow her on Twitter @jennymorrischef where details will soon follow about the “Moroccothon”.The idea is for the public to buy the ingredients and cook along with Morris when her programme is broadcast. - Cape Argus

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