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As in many other countries, traditional varieties of flat breads can be found on Moroccans' tables
In urban areas, it is common for residents to use public ovens to bake their daily bread.
If we define bread by its most basic ingredients — a combination of flour, water, and salt — then many cultures worldwide have their own version of this basic food. In Morocco, like in many other countries, oven-baked flatbreads are a quotidian staple.
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Known in Arabic as khobz (or khoubz or kesra, depending), bread in Morocco is "shaped into round, flattish loaves with lots of crust." There is no single standard flour for khobz, but white, semolina, wheat, rye, bran, and barley (sometimes with a little anise or cumin seeds for spice) are common.
When eating certain meats, sauces, soups, and salads, it’s customary for this bread to replace utensils at the traditional dinner tables.
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Moroccan Food – 15 Traditional dishes to eat in Morocco
Moroccan food is well-known around the world for its rich flavors with spices and herbs as well as slow-cooked meats and delicious couscous. There are many interesting dishes that you should try when visiting Morocco, and here are some of my favorites!
The glorious food — and the recipes, too — of Morocco
But surely you can learn all you need to know about any country just by cooking and eating its food.
Much Moroccan food is cooked slowly, methodically — even thoughtfully. The flavors have a long time to build and meld and blend together until they become a singular taste you can no longer distinguish the individual ingredients.
There is an art to making many of the classic Moroccan dishes, almost a ritual. Couscous — the tiny pasta that acts like a grain — is perhaps the defining dish of the country, where it is eaten every day. It is prepared with much effort in a special pot called a couscoussier and is steamed three times before serving.
Moroccan mint tea is also something of a ritual — there is more to this sweet, minty tea than mere tea. For Moroccans, the tea takes on extra significance when it is shared with others the cup of tea becomes imbued with all of the culturally critical aspects of hospitality.
If nothing else, Moroccan mint tea tells us one thing about the country and its inhabitants: They like their tea sweet. Very, very sweet.
I took a culinary tour of Morocco by cooking five classic dishes. One taste of each is all you need to know why Moroccan food is considered one of the most popular cuisines in the world.
I began with perhaps the most iconic of the country’s many iconic dishes, Couscous with Seven Vegetables. In many homes, it is served every Friday. I made mine with stewing beef, but you could also use lamb or just keep it vegetarian.
If you like complexly flavored food, you’re going to want to make it.
All of that flavor does not just come from the seven vegetables of the name (carrots, sweet potatoes, turnips, zucchini, cabbage, squash and chile pepper, or any substitutions you want to make). Much of the amazing taste comes from the irresistible combination of spices that give the dish its punch: ginger, turmeric, parsley, cilantro and saffron.
If you mix those ingredients together with some beef, onion, tomato and water, you end up with a powerfully spiced — but not hot — broth that will gladden your soul.
And don’t worry about the ritual of steaming the couscous three times. I’m sure that tastes amazing, but I just used the instant stuff from a grocery store, and it was great.
Moroccan Orange Salad. (Ryan Michalesko/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS)
For a delightful contrast, I next went with something bright and light, a Moroccan Orange Salad.
This dish is deceptively entrancing easy to make, yet with an unexpected taste. It is just slices of orange in a lightly sweet, cinnamon-orange sauce. The sauce is just a bit of orange juice heated with sugar or honey, cinnamon and orange blossom water. I didn’t have orange blossom water, so I simply added orange zest to water, which isn’t the same thing but is an adequate substitution.
Then the oranges are topped with shredded mint and a few chopped pistachios. Though the dish is made with only a few ingredients, each one adds its own kick.
I next went with another traditional offering, a lentil soup called Harira that is most often served during Ramadan but is also popular throughout the year.
Harira has everything you would find in most good lentil soups (onion, garlic, ginger, cumin, cilantro, celery leaves or celery), plus a couple of curve balls that make it uniquely Moroccan.
Saffron, for one. The famously expensive spice adds a heavenly, exotic perfume and flavor, especially when paired with cinnamon. These two spices are sometimes paired together for tea, but they are only brought together for lentil soup in Morocco. The combination can be habit-forming.
A great soup needs a great bread, and many different types are made in Morocco. I baked the most basic, a plain Khobz, which is made with white flour.
Harira served with khobz bread. (Ryan Michalesko/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS)
Khobz (the word refers to bread that is baked in the oven, as opposed to on the stove) is a thin, flat bread that is neither as thin nor as flat as flatbread. It is easy and relatively quick to make (it only rises once) and has a simple, uncluttered taste.
You might even call it bland, which is fine. Actually, it’s ideal. Khobz is used to sop up spicy sauces it complements them, rather than competes with them.
Khobz is almost required with one more national dish, the famous tagine. A tagine is actually the conical-shaped, earthenware pot that the stew, which is also called tagine, is cooked in. The shape presumably helps to blend the flavors.
I made a tagine of Moroccan Lamb with Apricots, Almonds and Mint, only I didn’t use a tagine to cook it in. I have occasionally thought of buying one but never have because they cost a lot more than you would think, especially at those high-priced shopping-mall kitchen stores.
Moroccan Lamb with Apricots, Almonds & Mint. (Ryan Michalesko/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS)
And besides, you don’t actually need a tagine to cook a tagine. I made mine in a pot on the stove, and it was spectacular.
You can never go wrong with slow-cooked lamb anyway, but this version has something that makes it special: sweetness.
It isn’t very sweet or even too sweet, it is just a little sweet from the dried apricots, a splash of orange juice and a sprinkling of fresh mint. And a bit of sweetness turns out to be just the thing to play off of the meaty lamb and the rich almond sauce.
It’s a hearty dinner you will want to add to your repertoire. And there’s nothing mysterious about that.
MOROCCAN LAMB WITH APRICOTS, ALMONDS AND MINT
Adapted from bbcgoodfood.com. Make 4 servings.
Grated zest and juice of 1 orange
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint, divided
1 ounce ground almonds or almond butter
1 ounce sliced almonds, toasted
Steamed broccoli and couscous for serving
1. Season the lamb with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large pot. Add the lamb and cook over medium-high heat for 3 to 4 minutes until evenly browned, stirring often. Transfer lamb to a plate using a slotted spoon.
2. Stir the onion and garlic into the pot and cook 5 minutes until softened. Return the lamb to the pot. Add the stock, zest and juice, cinnamon and honey, and season with more salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer gently for 1 hour.
3. Add the apricots and 2 tablespoons of the mint and cook for 30 minutes until the lamb is tender. Stir in the ground almonds or almond butter to thicken the sauce. Scatter the remaining 1 tablespoon mint and toasted sliced almonds over the top and serve with couscous and broccoli.
Per serving: 397 calories 21 g fat 4 g saturated fat 71 mg cholesterol 28 g protein 26 g carbohydrate 19 g sugar 4 g fiber 764 mg sodium 95 mg calcium
COUSCOUS WITH SEVEN VEGETABLES
Adapted from cookingwiththalia.com. Makes 8 servings.
1 pound lamb or beef, cut into 1 1/2- to 2-inch pieces
Large pinch of saffron threads
1/2 teaspoon pepper, to taste
1 (15.5-ounce) can chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
3 carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise and cut into 2-inch pieces
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and halved, and each half cut into quarters
2 to 3 turnips, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
2 zucchini, halved lengthwise and cut into 2-inch pieces
1/2 of a small cabbage, cored and cut into bite-sized pieces
3/4 of an acorn squash or 3/4 pound of another squash, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 pound dry, 5-minute couscous
Note: Feel free to substitute vegetables such as potatoes, celery root, fava beans or any others of your choice.
1. Slice tomato in half and grate the pulpy flesh on the large holes of a grater discard the skin. Set aside. Tie the parsley and cilantro together with kitchen twine.
2. Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large pot, and add the meat, turmeric, ginger, saffron, salt and pepper. Add the chopped onion, and mix. Brown the meat for a few minutes, stirring frequently.
3. Add the grated tomato and bundle of parsley and cilantro. Cover with water. Add the chickpeas. Cover the pot and simmer 30 minutes.
4. Add the carrots, sweet potatoes and turnips. Return to a simmer, cover and simmer 15 minutes.
5. Add zucchini, cabbage, squash and chile pepper. Return to a simmer, cover and simmer 10 minutes.
6. Test the vegetables (you only need to test one of each type). If any are not thoroughly tender, remove the cooked vegetables to a bowl and leave the ones that need more time in the pot. Cover and simmer until the vegetables and meat are all done.
7. Make the couscous according to the package directions, using 1 cup of the broth in the pot along with water to make it.
8. Return the vegetables and meat to the pot to warm them and serve over the couscous, with the red pepper on top for a visual flourish.
Per serving: 416 calories 7 g fat 2 g saturated fat 29 mg cholesterol 20 g protein 69 g carbohydrate 9 g sugar 10 g fiber 475 mg sodium 98 mg calcium
HARIRA (LENTIL SOUP)
Adapted from a recipe by David Tanis in the New York Times. Makes 8 to 10 servings.
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil or butter
1 large onion, finely diced, about 2 cups
1 tablespoon dried ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
1/4 teaspoon crumbled saffron
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 cups diced ripe tomato, fresh or canned
2 tablespoons chopped celery leaves, or 1 tablespoon minced celery
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 cup brown lentils, rinsed
1 cup canned chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans), rinsed
1/4 pound angel hair pasta or vermicelli, broken into 1-inch pieces
1. Put olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until softened and lightly colored, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in garlic, ginger, pepper, turmeric, cumin, cayenne, saffron and cinnamon. Cook about 2 minutes more.
2. Add tomato, celery leaves and cilantro and bring to a brisk simmer. Cook, stirring, about 5 minutes until mixture somewhat thickens, then add 1 teaspoon salt, the brown lentils, red lentils and chickpeas. Add 8 cups water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer, covered with the lid ajar.
3. Let soup simmer for 30 minutes, then taste broth and adjust salt. Cook for 1 hour more at a gentle simmer, until the lentils are soft and creamy. It may be necessary to add more liquid from time to time to keep soup from being too porridge-like. It should be on the thick side, but with a pourable consistency. (With every addition of water, taste and adjust for salt).
4. Just before serving, add pasta and let cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Ladle soup into small bowls and pass lemon wedges for squeezing. This soup may be made in advance and refrigerated. If it thickens, thin with water or broth when reheating, and adjust the salt.
Per serving (based on 8): 305 calories 5 g fat 1 g saturated fat no cholesterol 17 g protein 50 g carbohydrate 7 g sugar 15 g fiber 61 mg sodium 60 mg calcium
KHOBZ (MOROCCAN WHITE BREAD)
Recipe by Christine Benlafquih in thespruceeats.com. Makes 2 loaves.
4 cups bread or all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1. Lightly oil 2 baking sheets, or dust them with cornmeal or semolina, or line them with parchment paper.
2. Mix the flour, salt and sugar in a large bowl. Make a large well in the center of the flour mixture and add the yeast.
3. Add the oil and warm water to the well, stirring with your fingers to dissolve the yeast first, and then stirring the entire contents of the bowl to incorporate the water into the flour.
4. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and begin kneading the dough, or use a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. If necessary, add flour or water in very small amounts to make the dough soft and pliable but not sticky. Continue kneading for 10 minutes by hand (or 5 minutes by machine), until the dough is very smooth and elastic.
5. Divide the dough in half and shape each portion into a small circular mound. Place the dough onto the prepared pans, cover with a towel and allow it to rest for 10 to 15 minutes.
6. After the dough has rested, use the palm of your hand to flatten the dough into circles about 1/4-inch thick. Cover with a towel and let rise about 1 hour (longer in a cold room), or until the dough springs back when pressed lightly with a finger.
7. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 425 degrees.
8. Create steam vents by scoring the top of the bread with a very sharp knife (it will work better if you first spray the blade with nonstick spray) or by poking the dough with a fork in several places. Bake for about 20 minutes, rotating the pans about halfway through, or until the loaves are nicely colored and sound hollow when tapped. Cool on a rack or a towel-lined basket. This bread is best frozen if not consumed the same day.
Per serving: 267 calories 4 g fat 1 g saturated fat no cholesterol 7 g protein 49 g carbohydrate 1 g sugar 2 g fiber 583 mg sodium 10 mg calcium
MOROCCAN ORANGE SALAD
Adapted from “Tasting Paris,” by Clotilde Dusoulier. Makes 4 to 6 servings.
4 large, juicy oranges (or grapefruits or tangerines)
2 teaspoons granulated sugar or honey
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 to 3 tablespoons orange blossom water, or zest from 1 orange
3 tablespoons pistachios, roughly chopped
1. Slice off the very top and bottom of each orange, just enough to expose the flesh. Remove all of the peel and pith by strips, top to bottom, using the blade of your knife to cut away as little of the juicy flesh as possible. Trim any small bits of pith you missed, and pour the juices that collect on the cutting board into a small saucepan.
2. Cut the oranges horizontally to form thin slices, about 1/4-inch thick. Arrange in an overlapping pattern on a serving platter.
Moroccan Preserved Meat – Khlii or Khlea
Khlii is a confit of dried Moroccan meat that’s stored in its cooking fats. Once an important way to preserve meat in the days before refrigeration, khlii is now enjoyed as a delicacy.
Khlii is a type of Moroccan preserved meat which is cooked confit-style. Photo: picturepartners | Bigstockphoto.com
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Khlii (or khlea) is a confit of Moroccan preserved meat. It&rsquos traditionally prepared by the long, slow simmering of a cured, dried meat called gueddid in olive oil and suet. The resulting confit will store safely for months on end, if not for a year or two, at room temperature.
The tradition of making khlii seems to have started in Fes before spreading across Morocco and North Africa. This is probably the reason why Fes is still referred to as &ldquothe Capital of Khlii&rdquo in Morocco. It&rsquos hard to imagine a Fassi (from Fes) house without this delicacy or at least its sediments, called agriss, agriche or agreish.
Both khlii and agriss find their way into many dishes over the course of a year, from breakfast to dinner. You will find it in morning fried eggs or in laminated flatbread, or perhaps in cooked starters and salads. Maybe it will be an ingredient in the main dish of the day but it could also be in tonight&rsquos soup.
Marrakesh is the second Moroccan city which counts khlii among its culinary traditions. While khlii used to be a frugal element in the Moroccan diet, especially in those cities, in modern times it has become a sort of delicacy which is appreciated throughout the kingdom, with domestic tourism helping to elevate khlii&rsquos status.
Moroccan Tajine Recipe, Your Morocco Travel Guide
Tajines in Moroccan cuisine are slow-cooked stews braised at low temperatures, resulting in tender meat with aromatic vegetables and sauce. They are traditionally cooked in the tajine pot, whose cover has a knob-like formation at its top to facilitate removal. While simmering, the cover can be lifted off without the aid of a mitten, enabling the cook to inspect the main ingredients, add vegetables, move things around, or add additional braising liquid. To learn how to make a Moroccan tajine first hand, consider taking A Taste of Morocco tour or a local cooking class from a chef at a cooking school or university closest to where you live.
Tajine or tagine is a type of dish found in the North African cuisines of Morocco, which is named after the special pot in which it is cooked. The traditional tajine pot is formed entirely of a heavy clay which is sometimes painted or glazed. It consists of two parts a base unit which is flat and circular with low sides, and a large cone or dome-shaped cover that rests inside the base during cooking. The cover is designed to promote the return of all condensation to the bottom. With the cover removed, the base can be taken to the table for serving. The clay used to make a tajine comes from various regions in Morocco. Morocco’s Sahara Desert has orange colored clay as does the Ouarzazate region. Some of the best cooking tajines can be found in the Tizin’ Tichka pass and tajines for decorative purposed in the pottery capital, Safi.
Most tagines involve slow simmering of less-expensive meats. For example, the ideal cuts of lamb are the neck, shoulder or shank cooked until it is falling off the bone. Very few Moroccan tajines require initial browning if there is to be browning it is invariably done after the lamb has been simmered and the flesh has become butter-tender and very moist. In order to accomplish this, the cooking liquid must contain some fat, which may be skimmed off later.
Moroccan tajines often combine lamb or chicken with a medley of ingredients or seasonings: olives, quinces, apples, pears, apricots, raisins, prunes, dates, nuts, with fresh or preserved lemons, with or without honey, with or without a complexity of spices. Traditional spices that are used to flavour tajines include ground cinnamon, saffron, ginger, turmeric, cumin, paprika, pepper, as well as the famous spice blend Ras el hanout. Some famous tajine dishes are mqualli or emshmel (both are pairings of chicken, olives and citrus fruits, though preparation methods differ), kefta (meatballs in an egg and tomato sauce), and mrouzia (lamb, raisins and almonds).
Other ingredients for a tajine include any product that braises well: fish, quail, pigeon, beef, root vegetables, legumes, even amber and aga wood. Modern recipes in the West include pot roasts, ossobuco, lamb shanks and turkey legs. Seasonings can be traditional Moroccan spices, French, Italian or suited to the dish.
Morocco, perhaps feeling pressure to catch up with Europe, is beginning to use the efficient pressure cooker to make tajines. Recently, European manufacturers have created tajines with heavy cast iron bottoms that can be fired on a stovetop at high heat. This permits browning meat and vegetables before cooking. While the similar Dutch oven and Sac spell (sach) (a cast iron pot with a tight cover) braises most efficiently in the oven, the tajine braises best on the stovetop.
Tajine makers, who want to remain loyal to the original cooking methods but save time, can still cook with saucepans and casseroles, but place them over gas versus a slow fire. Regardless of how you make tajine, you should make it with love and care as this will assure a delicious result. Also, keep in mind that it is difficult to make tajines for large groups because they don’t contain much more than sauce. As a result, a tajine is better prepared for your family or an intimate gathering of friends.
Tajines are a delicious meal if you enjoy exotic ingredients like lamb or chicken marinated in olive oil and garlic. (If you are vegetarian, you can request your tajine to be made without meat during your Moroccan travels). Meats are always first sautéed and then embellished with combinations of marinades including saffron, cumin, crushed red pepper, fresh coriander, parsley, chickpeas, and almonds. To be playful with the dishes, Moroccans sometimes add prunes, ginger, or hard boiled eggs. The standard dish will always include chicken, olives and salted lemons.
Some tricks to get your tajine like those of Moroccan mothers include using cooking butter (you can substitute for olive oil) and large quantities of chopped onions. Warm the onions until they reach their softest state this will help the tajine sauce taste creamier. Adding a touch of honey is another secret.
Some differences in how tajines vary between regions include details of what spices, fats, and seasonal produce are used. Regardless of where your ingredients come from, one similarity throughout Morocco is that upon preparation, the tajine is commonly ate with couscous or thick wedges of freshly made hot bread used to scoop up the meat and vegetables.
Decorative Moroccan Tajine
MOROCCAN TAJINE RECIPES: The following are a few of the most popular tajine recipes to recreate at home.
Restaurants serve single portions from tajines, but that’s not the standard. If you eat with a host or want to replicate a recipe at home, one shared pot is the norm. Tajine goes in the center of the table so that everyone can reach it. The most authentic way is to eat straight out of the tajine instead of transferring the contents to smaller plates. Therefore, prepare to fight for whatever deliciousness lies underneath the lid!
The variety of dishes served out of tajines reflects the different aspects of Moroccan cuisine as a whole. It can be simple and bright, like tajine daja, or comforting and warm like kefta mkaouara. The best part of tajine though is that it was meant to be shared. That’s why they make some that are so big. So, if you can’t get to Morocco, take your biggest casserole to the spice cabinet and go from there.
More than tagine: A guide to Morocco’s 10 tastiest street foods
Getting to the core of Morocco’s incredible and diverse food scene starts with sampling their street food. It’s time to venture into the many medinas, look out for hole-in-the-wall eateries and embrace roadside dining.
But with so many amazing market stall treats to try, where do you even begin? Fear not, I’ve got you covered with this list of must-eats to tick off on your adventures around Morocco…
Thought of by many as the national meal of Morocco, this hearty soup is believed to have its roots in Berber tradition. It’s also closely associated with the month of Ramadan, as it’s often the first dish eaten to break the fast. Made from tomatoes, lentils, chickpeas, rice, chunks of lamb and plenty of earthy spices, like turmeric and cinnamon – it’s a real crowd pleaser. Sold everywhere from restaurants to streetside carts, you won’t struggle to slurp your way through a bowl or two of harira.
These long, thin North African sausages pack a real punch, particularly when compared to their tamer European cousins. They’re created using lamb mince, beef mince or a combination of the two, but it’s the harissa, paprika and other melange of spices that gives these meaty morsels their oomph. Buy them stuffed into freshly baked khobz (or Moroccan flatbreads) from the street sellers lining the local squares. They marry perfectly with a side of spicy tomato salsa-style dipping sauce too.
Photo captured by Erica Kritikides
Morocco exports more sardines than anywhere else in the world, who knew? So, don’t be surprised when you see them being sold at market stalls all over the country. This street food staple is served grilled or deep-fried and filled with a zingy chermoula relish, made from parsley, cumin, paprika, salt and pepper. Whilst they’re utterly delicious when eaten on their own, they work brilliantly in sandwiches too – great for a convenient on-the-go bite.
Hole-in-the-wall eateries can be spotted all over Morocco, and one of the undeniably delicious specialities they serve up is maakouda. These filling golden fritters are made from mashed or grated potatoes, garlic, cumin, onions and coriander, which are then dipped in beaten eggs before frying. They’re a real family favourite and make the ideal snack or side dish. Some Moroccans even choose to use them as a sandwich filling – yum!
You may be tempted to veer sharply away from stalls selling steaming bowls of boiled snails (or babbouche). But, this dish is one of the most flavour-packed plates you’re likely to sample in the whole of Morocco. The molluscs are simmered in a soup seasoned with a plethora of different herbs and spices, such as aniseed, sweet and spicy pepper, bitter orange peel and mint. You’ll find them being served up by the ladle-full from carts in the medinas. It’s up to you whether you choose to buy a bowl of the broth or try the snails by scooping them out with a toothpick.
Photo captured by Erica Kritikides
Who doesn’t love a doughnut? I know I do! And sfenj are just that, a light and fluffy Maghrebi treat. Created using very basic ingredients: water, flour, sugar and salt, they’re then cooked in hot oil until beautifully crispy on the outside. They can be eaten plain, sugar-coated, or honey drenched – you choose. And you’ll see them being fried up first thing in the morning for brekkie, or late in the afternoon as a snack to accompany a glass of mint tea or coffee.
This Middle Eastern classic isn’t likely to be new and exotic for most travellers stumbling upon it, but the Moroccans certainly know what they’re doing when it comes to shawarma. Take your pick of meats and decide whether to have it dished up on a plate, in a sandwich or wrap. You’ll also have your choice of sides and toppings, we’re talking tahini, hummus, pickled vegetables, salad and so much more.
8. Almond milkshake
It’s no secret that Moroccans love a mint tea, but they’re also big fans of creamy almond milkshakes. Made by whizzing together almonds, milk, dates and a splash of orange flower water for a little added sweetness – this beverage is best served ice cold. If the idea of an almond shake isn’t calling to you, then maybe try a popular avocado smoothie instead or alternatively choose your own signature blend of seasonal fruits.
Got a sweet tooth? Then you won’t be able to resist these sugary delights. Chebakia is a local Moroccan pastry shaped to look like a rose. These doughy treats are then fried, slathered in a syrup made from honey and rosewater, and sprinkled with sesame seeds. Another Ramadan favourite, families usually cook them up by the bucketload. Do your best to try one from a roadside seller as homemade ones are a cut above the machine-made versions. Please note these are seriously addictive – you have been warned!
If you crossed a crêpe with a soft flatbread, the result would be msemmen. Unlike your typical French pancake, this Maghrebi goodie is made from working and folding thin layers of dough rather than using a batter. It’s then fried on a hotplate, not dissimilar to an Indian tava, until golden brown. They can either be stuffed with fillings like kefta and onions or spicy herbs and vegetables. Or they can be topped with butter, honey or even cheese. This is a favoured early morning and afternoon snack, usually enjoy alongside a cup of hot tea (no surprises there).
Have we got your stomach rumbling? Then travel to Morocco to try some of these street food treats for yourself on one of our many tours.
For those of you who are vegetarians or who want to eat vegetables, this dish will be perfect for your taste. B’sarra is a soup made from broad bean mixed with olive oil and seasoned with cumin and garlic. As a complement, B’sarra is usually served with bread.
B’sarra is often enjoyed as a breakfast menu because it contains a lot of nutrients and fiber derived from nuts which are used as the basic ingredients. You can find delicious B’sarra at the Beldi Bab Ssour restaurant in the city of Chefchaouen and the restaurant Riad al Bartal in the city of Fes.
Bastilla is a spiced pie with a tasteful mix of sweet-and-salty ingredients, and delicate flavors. This is a fancy Moroccan dish usually made during celebrations and special occasions, but you can still find it in most Moroccan restaurants.
There are different kinds of Bastillas, but the most common ones are squab Bastillas, chicken Bastillas, and seafood Bastillas.
Exploring the art of Moroccan Cuisine with Tara Stevens
Hidden within the winding alleyways of the Fez Medina you’ll find the Courtyard Kitchen Fez at Dar Namir. Founded in 2015 by culinary expert and food journalist Tara Stevens, the Courtyard Kitchen Fez at Dar Namir invites food-lovers to step into a world of culinary delight and discover the secrets of traditional Moroccan cooking with a contemporary twist.
Forming part of Ker & Downey® Africa’s exclusive LuxVentures to Come, our 12 day Culinary Journey to Morocco was designed in collaboration with Tara Stevens, who will play a fundamental role in sharing her love of Morocco and its unique cuisine with seasoned travelers. Tara’s immersive culinary workshops aim to inspire and teach travelers a new set of skills that they can still benefit from long after their journey ends.We caught up with Tara to discuss her love of Moroccan cuisine and find out the inspiration behind the Courtyard Kitchen Fez at Dar Namir.
Tara sourcing ingredients from the r’Cif souk
Ker & Downey® Africa: What drew you to Fez and how long have you been living there?
Tara: I originally came to write a story for Condé Nast Traveler, about Mike Richardson at Café Clock. I had heard about him through a friend at the Hay Book Festival and was intrigued by the idea of someone who would give up a high-flying career as maitre’d at some of the world’s most prestigious restaurants (the Ivy and the Wolsely in London) to pursue selling camel burgers in Fez.
After the story was published, Mike asked me to write his cookbook ‘Clock Book: recipes from a modern Moroccan kitchen’. During the course of its research I found myself buying a small dar (courtyard house) near r’Cif in the ancient medina, and I’ve now been here for 10 years.
Ker & Downey® Africa: What makes Fez a world-class culinary destination?
Tara: It’s the cradle of Moroccan cuisine, yet in many ways remains undiscovered. The restaurant scene is still very young, yet its culinary history dates back centuries. So, there’s a lot to discover if you know where to look.
And I’m not just talking about tagine or couscous. There are the slowly cooked lamb mechouias (traditionally cooked whole over a spit, adapted at the courtyard kitchen to something you can do in the oven), flower waters and aromatics like preserved lemons, rose petals and fermented butter all waiting to be explored as new ingredients.
It’s the cradle of Moroccan cuisine, yet in many ways remains undiscovered. The restaurant scene is still very young, yet its culinary history dates back centuries. So, there’s a lot to discover if you know where to look.
These days you can have street food for lunch (I often snack on chermoula-stuffed fried sardines and aubergines, or kefta packed into fresh from the oven khobz, or paper cones filled with makouda – fried potato cakes), and new wave Moroccan in the evening (Najat Kaanache at Nur is arguably the country’s most forward-thinking chef in terms of a contemporary interpretation of the cuisine).
You can visit organic goat cheese farms, learn to make distilled flower waters (in season) and nut butters, or head out of town to discover clay oven bakers and Atlas trout farmers. My 2-night, live-in courses make all of this possible.
Artichoke salad with labne & salsa verde at the Courtyard Kitchen Fez at Dar Namir, photo credit | Camilla Lindqvist
Ker & Downey® Africa: Can you tell us a bit more about some of your favorite Moroccan dishes?
Tara: I adore bissara – the thick, pale, green fava or split pea soup served here as a street food for breakfast. Traditionally you sprinkle cumin and drizzle olive, or Argan oil, on top. At the Courtyard Kitchen, we top it off with some hot and sweet day-pickles. I have no shame in serving something this simple to friends as a midweek supper, and neither should you. It’s the most comforting, sustaining thing on earth.
My favourite tagine is a Fassi institution: chicken, preserved lemon and olive. Done right, it’s a taste sensation. I also love the springtime lamb, artichoke and pea tagines.
Zaalouk – smoky aubergine salad, is the one dish that nearly everyone requests on their menu when we’re putting together a class, and I love this one, because Rachida (my assistant) makes it perfectly and it’s a chance for her to hone her teaching skills.
Truthfully, I’m not mad about Moroccan sweets and pastries. They are too sweet for my tooth, but I do enjoy corn de gazelle (half-moon shaped pastries filled with almond paste and contained within gossamer thin pastry). I don’t have the manual dexterity to make them well, but again, Rachida is brilliant at it, and these too feature fairly regularly on our menus.
Ker & Downey® Africa: What inspired you to open Dar Namir Cooking School and how long has it been in operation?
Tara: When I first came to Fez I remember feeling that it’s culinary evolution had got stuck somewhere along the line. The food hadn’t changed for centuries, which isn’t a bad thing, but it had all the qualities of being something more without losing its identity.
I believed there was an opportunity to help move Fez, and indeed Morocco, into the next chapter of its culinary history and so in 2015 I set up the Chefs in Residence project at Restaurant Numero 7 (now Nur). I invited chefs from all over the world to come and live and work in the Fez medina for a period of 2-3 months, on the premise that they must source all their ingredients from within the medina or from nearby farms, and serve a fresh interpretation of Moroccan food. The next generation of its culinary evolution if you will.
When I first came to Fez I remember feeling that it’s culinary evolution had got stuck somewhere along the line. The food hadn’t changed for centuries, which isn’t a bad thing, but it had all the qualities of being something more without losing its identity.
Tara Stevens in r’Cif Market, photo credit | Camilla Lindqvist
The project ran for two years with chefs as diverse as Jerome Waag (formerly Chez Panisse, California), Analiese Gregory (Franklin, Tasmania) and Harry Cummins (La Mercerie, France) at the helm. It garnered press from all over the world.
Simultaneously, I launched the Courtyard Kitchen Fez at the end of 2015, with a similar remit in mind, and I’ve been going strong now for nearly 5 years.
Merguez & eggs with goat curd, cumin & coriander at the Courtyard Kitchen Fez at Dar Namir, photo credit | Camilla Lindqvist
Ker & Downey® Africa: What sets Dar Namir apart from other culinary experiences in Morocco?
Tara: I’m not interested in competing with Moroccan cooks. I believe if you want to learn to make a terrific tagine or couscous you should go to a Moroccan woman. What I offer is the ‘what else’.
I take typical ingredients and traditional recipes and look at what else you can do with them, and how you can incorporate those flavours into a culinary repertoire that is more in keeping with modern life.
In my case, I look for dishes that are fresh, light, bright and healthy. They tend to be plant-forward rather than meat heavy, vegetables are raw or cooked briefly, grains outside of couscous are incorporated for their nutty qualities. Basically, I like turning things on their heads.
Essential fresh herbs at Courtyard Kitchen Fez at Dar Namir, photo credit | Camilla Lindqvist
I take typical ingredients and traditional recipes and look at what else you can do with them, and how you can incorporate those flavors into a culinary repertoire that is more in keeping with modern life.
That is not to say I don’t do tagines or couscous at all. I simply approach them in a different way. Our chicken tagine for example employs French techniques to layer-up the flavours, and we make a fantastic rabbit, apricot and pecan tagine, which is not the kind of thing you’d see in restaurants, but the flavours are just dreamy.
We’re also big on turning classics into something new. Taking the chicken, preserved lemon and olive tagine again as an example, I turn it into crunchy, triangular briouats (hand-pies) and instead of pigeon pastilla, I use warka to make goats cheese, thyme and pink peppercorn ‘cigars’. Both can be big batched and frozen. Both are fabulous as drinks party canapes. Especially with champagne. I urge everyone to try it.
My main course lamb mechouia, takes a shoulder of lamb rubbed lavishly with various spices, which is then slow-baked with a glass of wine on a bed of fennel. That might be served with crisp, ras al hanout roast potatoes and a green salad tossed with a preserved lemon vinaigrette. It’s a great, exotic-feeling alternative to Sunday lunch and I often serve it at Easter.
One of the most popular desserts is a dark chocolate and rose water olive oil cake, served with a dollop of crème fraiche. Or our riff on the classic orange and cinnamon salad, jazzed up with a whole spice syrup and fresh mint leaves. I prefer it to the more typical British Christmas pudding, and my entire family is now converted.