Morocco, the name itself evokes exotic images. Moroccan cuisine has strong routes in tradition and is rated as amongst THE best in the world. The Moroccans are very proud of their food and the sharing of meals is an integral part of the culinary experience and the foundation of the Moroccan way of life – there is a strong sense of family and tribe. Distinctive and delicious, each major dish has its own story.
Morocco is an agricultural paradise. The heart of Moroccan cuisine lies in the spices expelling tantalising fragrance, colour and warmth. The women of the kitchen mix the most interesting flavours. Set recipes are very rare, each dish will have the signature of the creator, who is always a woman.
Best time of year to visit: March to May or September to October
The national dish. Known to the Berbers as ‘seksoo’ or ‘sikuk’’. The couscous grain has a strong religious and emotional significance. Made from durum-wheat semolina mixed with smaller quantities of either drum-wheat flour or a soft-wheat flour, salt and water. The semolina is found in various forms all over north Africa and native to the region and is usually served topped with a stew. Moroccans believe it is food that bring’s God’s blessing upon those who consume it. Couscous needs to be prepared with patience, rhythm, time and the finesse of the woman preparing it. . It is cooked in a ‘couscoussier’ – special two tiered pot like a steamer.
On the Feast of Achoura, commemorating the death of the Prophet’s grandson, superstitious wives conseal morsels of ‘qaddid’ (preserved lamb’s tail) within a mound of couscous, to ensure their husbands fidelity.
Bread or ‘khubz’, the most basic and essential food is sacred in Morocco. The Prophet ordered that that bread be treated with the utmost respect, so any bread found thrown away in the street must be moved out of the way of foot traffic with a short prayer. Loaves are baked early morning in terracotta gas’a in a communal oven.
The country’s national drink, tea is drunk every hour of the day. Said to be the favoured drink of the Prophet, maybe this is the reason why the Moroccans drink so much of it. The truth behind the history of tea is the English. They introduced it in the mid C.19th when their route from the Far East to England was blocked by the effects of the Crimean War, so they offloaded it in Tangier and Mogador (Agadir). Or was it when when King George I sent Sultan Moulay Ismael in 1721 bales of tea as a gift, eager to open up trading links with Morocco. Anyhow it is this green tea – gun powder or ‘chun mee’, the most Chinese of teas and is still used today in the brewing process. The Moroccans added the mint. Mint is grown all over Morocco but flourishes in the mountains. The only mint that can be used is ‘mentha viridis’. The best quality, dark with firm stalks, comes from Meknes or the Zerhoun. Tea is served in houses, in the Medina’s (old part of markets), everywhere, all day long. Freshly brewed na’na’ MINT TEA has become a fine art and a national symbol.PRESERVES Background:
One of the cornerstones of Moroccan cuisine. Jewish Maroccans developed the art of preserving. It should be noted that the Jewish quarters of Moroccan towns are called ‘mellah’, meaning salt. Salt is used in the preservation process. Olives from around Fes and Meknes are some of the best in the Mediterranean. Lemons are preserved in the spring when they are their ripest and sweetest. Usually done with salt, some regions add cinnamon sticks, cloves and coriander for an alternative taste.ALMOND MILK Background:
Almond milk, ‘sharbat billoz’, is drunk during celebrations. Made from blanched almonds blended with milk, water, rosewater or orange flower water and sugar.TAJINE Background:
Meat is an integral part of the Moroccan diet. Tajine is a stew of meat and vegetables. It’s name comes from the pot, pictured in the main image, in which it is cooked in – a utensil that is still a mystery of Moroccan cooking. The conical lid is said to retain and circulate the heat more effectively, or is it that shape so more meat can be piled inside. Tajine ingredients differ across Morocco. Berbers include lentils, other areas do lamb and date or lamb with sweetened tomatoes and almond combinations. The secret is long, slow cooking.EID EL KEBHIR, Background:
With it’s origins from the sacrifice made by Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham). God prevented him from sacrificing his son and recommended a sheep as a substitute. This feast coincides with the end of the prophet’s pilgrimage to Mecca. A sheep is brought into the home and fattened before slaughtering for the feast. The task is performed by the head of the household, and every family sacrifices a sheep. Every part of the sheep is used, thus allowing the cook to cover the entire spectrum of Moroccan cooking. The feast lasts for as long as the fresh meat does.
Along the famous Tizi n’Test pass is Argana, home to what is reputed to be the largest collective beehive in the world, and also one of the most curious because of its construction, history and the way it is run. Most of the hives are made of split reed cylinders covered with clay. With the aid of smoking brazier made of baked earth, the bees and their Queen are made to crawl out of the hive into a basket so that the honey can be classified as ‘historically important’.
‘baghrir’ – semolina pancake made with yeast and cooked on one side with a distinctive honeycomb appearance, ‘malwi’ or ‘rghayif’ variations of dough folded and interleaved with butter or oil, creating a flaky texture, served with ‘khli’’ preserved meat.
BERKOUSK – Milky Rice Pudding
This is a popular dish served up in a household when visited spontaneously by somebody. It’s delicious, simple, cheap and quick and easy to prepare. However you could also eat it when ill with diarrhoea or a similar stomach upset.Snails – called by an amusing name ‘boubbouches’ – served hot or cold in pottery bowls, swimming in the fierce soup made from the liquor in which they have been cooked. Supposed to whet the appetite, purify the blood and cure stomach ache. Use a simple wild acacia thorn to extract them B’STILA
This pastry is widely regarded as the crowning dish of Moroccan cuisine. This pastry is served to newlyweds the morning after their wedding night to symbolise their family’s wish that life together should be as sweet as this creation. Traditionally made with Pigeon stew under the pastry. Usually served as a first course.