Sample the aromatic and spicy food of North Africa by taking a trip to Morocco, a vibrant country with strong traditions and a diverse landscape of bustling cities, mountain ranges and arid deserts.
One of the great cuisines of the world, Moroccan cooking abounds with subtle spices and intriguing flavour combinations. Think tart green olives paired with chopped preserved lemon rind stirred into a tagine of tender chicken, the surprise of rich pigeon meat pie dusted with cinnamon and icing sugar, or sardines coated with a flavourful combination of coriander, parsley, cumin and a hint of chilli. Influenced by Andalusian Spain, Arabia and France, Morocco’s cuisine is a delicious combination of mouthwatering flavours that make it unique.
Don’t leave Morocco without trying…
At a few pennies a bowl, this rich soup of dried broad beans is traditionally served for breakfast, topped with a swirl of olive oil, a sprinkling of cumin and bread fresh from the oven.
A tagine is the clay cooking pot with a conical lid that gives its name to a myriad of dishes. Tagines can be seen bubbling away at every roadside café, are found in top notch restaurants and in every home, and are always served with bread.
With its long Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts, Morocco boasts a rich array of fish dishes. Chermoula is a combination of herbs and spices used as a marinade before grilling over coals, and as a dipping sauce.
During the holy month of Ramadan, the fast is broken at sunset each day with a steaming bowl of harira soup. Rich with tomatoes, lentils, chickpeas and lamb, it is finished off with a squeeze of lemon juice and some chopped coriander, and served with a sticky sweet pretzel calledchebakkiya.
Beef or lamb mince with garlic, fresh coriander and parsley, cinnamon and ground coriander is rolled into balls and cooked in a tomato and onion sauce. Just before the dish is ready, eggs are cracked into depressions in the sauce and soon cook to perfection.
‘Seksu’ or couscous is a fine wheat pasta traditionally rolled by hand. It is steamed over a stew of meat and vegetables. To serve, the meat is covered by a pyramid of couscous, the vegetables are pressed into the sides and the sauce served separately. It is often garnished with a sweet raisin preserve, or in the Berber tradition, with a bowl of buttermilk.
Moroccan street food is legendary and the best place to sample the wide variety is Djemaa el-Fna square in Marrakech. Here beside the kebabs, calamari and grilled sardines, you will find the more unusual sweet cheek meat of sheep’s heads, snails cooked in a spicy broth that wards off colds, and skewers of lamb’s liver with caul fat. Makouda are little deep-fried potato balls, delicious dipped into spicy harissa sauce.
Moroccan meals begin with at least seven cooked vegetable salads to scoop up with bread. They can include green peppers and tomatoes, sweet carrots or courgette purée, and a dish of local olives alongside. Zaalouk is a smoked aubergine dip, seasoned with garlic, paprika, cumin and a little chilli powder.
This very special pie represents the pinnacle of exquisite Fassi (from Fez) cuisine. Layers of a paper-thin pastry coddle a blend of pigeon meat, almonds and eggs spiced with saffron, cinnamon and fresh coriander, the whole dusted with icing sugar and cinnamon.
Known as ‘Moroccan whisky’, mint tea is the drink of choice. It is usually heavily sweetened with sugar chipped off a sugar cone. Gunpowder tea is steeped with a few sprigs of spearmint stuffed into the teapot. It is poured into a tea glass from a height to create a froth called the crown.