Meet Simo!

Meet Simo!

12-10-2012 | 14.19

Trouw's restaurant got itself a new sous-chef: Simo Bouabgha. He promises to give the menu a North-African twist.

Imagine an 8 year old boy, perfectly able to cook his own meals without any assistance from adults around him. His main ingredients: his own fantasy and creativity. That boy is Simo Bouabgha. Now, at the age of 33, he is still able to make 'something' out of 'nothing', quite an important asset for a chef.

Simo was born in the south of Morocco, in a village called Tinghir. He was raised by his grandmother who encouraged him to find his way around her kitchen from an early age. "Where I grew up people are self-sufficient. They grow their own vegetables and herbs in their gardens, they breed their own animals for their meat supply. It's practically a cradle-to-cradle system: there's hardly any waste. Food is organic by nature. Every once in a while my grandmother had to leave me alone for a couple of days, knowing I was able to take care of myself. I would make up my own receipes and then go out and find the matching ingredients, most of them vegetables and herbs. Very simple, but always fresh and tasteful. I grew up with pure flavours. I can still remember the delicious bread of our village, and something you would call a quiche, stuffed with herbs." When a lamb was being slaughtered, there would indeed be hardly any waste, as Simo recalls. "From the intestines and stomach we would make a sausage called Kordas, a speciality that's typical for our region. The meat was mixed with all kind of spices and we would let the sausages hang out in the sun to dry for days in a row. Delicious with couscous. Those are the flavours of my childhood."

At the age of 21 Simo decides to leave Morocco, after having lived in Rabat for a couple of years. He ends up in Amsterdam, where he is trained as a professional chef in several well-known restaurants. After a while he starts missing the Mediterranean sun and accepts a job offer from a restaurant somewhere along the Spanish Costa Brava. "In Spain I was taught to prepare seafood the right way, again simple but tasteful. The Spanish way of cooking is very similar to the Moroccan one. The ingredients need to be good and fresh and, very important, you need to take your time when you're in the kitchen."
The next step in his career is Club 13 in Barcelona, one of the hotspots in town. This is where he meets Lucas Scholvinck for the first time, the present chef of Trouw's restaurant. Simo and Lucas both enjoy working in a place where good food and dance music come together. Now, many years later, they're reunited in Trouw's kitchen. Much to Simo's joy, since he owe's so much to Lucas's 'coaching', as he puts it. As far as Lucas is concerned, Simo's talent and his Moroccan roots are a big 'extra' for the restaurant. His ability to improvise will be reflected in the 'Specials', those small suprising dishes you won't find on the menu. For instance a pie made of eggplant and figs. Or quinoa, mixed with parsnip and celeriac. "I love full flavours: not particularly spicy, but abundant. Well, come and taste the food, and you will know what I mean."

Last but not least, Simo is willing to share with us his personal receipe for Ras el Hanout, the spice mix every Moroccan chef keeps his 'secret'. Copy it, use it and catch the taste of Tinghir. Bon appétit!

Simo's Ras el Hanout

Everybody makes Ras el Hanout in his/her own way – and will usually keep the precise recipe top-secret…
Listed below is Simo’s version. So grab a mortar and get grinding.
1 tsp. grinded cumin seeds
2 cardamom seeds
0,25 tsp. grated nutmeg
3 cloves
0,5 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
0,5 tsp. grinded turmeric
0,5 tsp. allspice
0,5 tsp.  black pepper
0,5 tsp. fennel seeds
0,5 tsp. ginger powder
0,5 tsp. coriander seeds
0,5 tsp. dried thyme
0,5 tsp. dried rosemary
1 tsp. sweet powdered paprika
Dried zest of 0,5 lemon