Moroccan cuisine. Just the very idea of those words conjure up sensational smells and mouth-watering tastes. I have travelled all over the world and can tell you with utmost sincerity that Moroccan food is one of the top cuisines on our planet
Moroccan food combines all the wonders of the historic spice trade and has been influenced by all the cultures that have passed through the ancient lands. In the past 1000 years, Spanish, French, Arabic, North African and other Mediterranean cuisines have all played a part in what the people of Morocco eat and enjoy today. You can find modern twists on classic dishes such as mechoui, a roasted lamb dish, or traditional cuisine cooked by traditional families. Whatever you choose you are in for a gastronomic delight.
All Moroccan food bases itself on a deep and complex foundation of spices and ingredients. Meat is usually beef, lamb, goat, chicken or seafood. Fruit and vegetables are plentiful and fresh, many having been grown in Morocco itself. I love to wander the great markets, so full of life and energy, in search of not only the best deals but also the freshest produce. Welcome to our journey into my favourite Mororocan dishes, and why I have chosen them. I know that you will be just as hungry as I am when you have finished reading this!
The short answer is yes, but not in the way that you need to have a glass of cold milk or water on hand. Morrocan food makes use of many spices such as turmeric, ginger, cumin, paprika and cinnamon. Traditional Moroccan food is seldom hot spicy though. Many Moroccan chefs feel that this detracts from the overall taste, and much of the nuance of flavour is lost in the burn. I have to agree. I love spicy food, but am not the biggest chilli fan in the world. For me, a truly complex and aromatic dish makes use of spice layers, each of which is unravelled on your tongue with each bite. To be truly appreciated, each mouthful should take you on a journey.
When you do order your meals in Morocco, be sure to check how spicy they will be when they arrive at the table. If they don’t sound quite hot enough for you, ask for a dollop of the marvel that is Moroccan Harissa. Harissa is a complex spicy paste used to flavour soups and stews, or even as a dipping sauce. It is often served floating in a pool of golden olive oil. You can dip pretty much anything into Harissa, or put it on top of anything. As with most Moroccan tastes, Harissa can be mild or hotter. Be sure to taste a tiny bit before you slather it onto your food!
There are fewer luxuries in life I enjoy more than gazing out at the Moroccan landscape with a cup of steaming Moroccan tea in my hand. Unlike coffee, tea is designed to relax you and help you unwind. For me, it allows me a few minutes of peace amongst the craziness that my life can sometimes become.
Moroccan tea has a long story behind it, and one that varies depending on who you speak to. Like the preparation of the minty beverage, its origin has as many variations as there are stars in the sky. Some say that mint tea was introduced to Morocco by the ancient Phoenicians when they landed on the country’s shores in 12th century B.C. Others will loudly disagree with you and state that Moroccan tea has been around since the very first nomadic Berber tribes brought it from Asia. Still, others will interject, stating that the Spanish and Portuguese introduced the idea of tea in the 1900s… or could it have been Queen Victoria?
Wherever the idea of Moroccan Tea came from, it is undoubtedly now a staple in almost every Moroccan citizen’s life. Cups of steaming mint tea sweetened with a dollop of sugar can be found in every home. The basics are always the same: dried green tea leaves, fresh mint leaves, large amounts of sugar, and of course boiling water. Never is the tea sullied with any dairy, it must always be a clear golden liquid the colour of good honey.
The secret of good Moroccan tea lies in the ritual of brewing it:
Morocco is known for many amazing foods and beverages, including wine. Wine may not be the first place your mind goes to when you consider famous Moroccan drinks, but I can assure you that our wines are as award-winning as any produced in other countries.
Chateau Roslane is French in origin, built to mirror the great wineries of France. Situated amongst 2000 hectares of vineyards and gardens, Chateau Roslane offers a beautiful little restaurant catering to all tastes, and of course rooms in which one can rest their weary feet.
On our Arts Tour, we will visit the winery, learn a bit about how Moroccan wine is made, and of course taste the very best that they have to offer. Expect dark, rich reds with over-arching berry and chocolate, and crisp whites to perfectly compliment the dishes served at the restaurant.
Throughout the country, you can find colourful ceramic dishes with oddly shaped high lids. These come in all sorts of sizes, ranging from massive to dainty, but when in use they all give off the most mouth-watering smells. Moroccan tagine is famous throughout the world, not just for the interesting dishes that it is made in but for the amazing smells and tastes that it encompasses.
Originally used by nomadic tribes as a way of slow-cooking meat over a fire, tagine is now popular throughout the country. You can find variants in top-class restaurants, or the humble hearths of real Moroccan people. Simply put, a tagine is a Moroccan stew. This slow cooking method allowed people to cook rather tough cuts of meat until they were soft and delicious.
Of course, over hundreds of years making a tagine has become an art. The fluted shape of the tagine pot creates a little oven, slow baking anything inside it to perfection. These pots are often used over fires and will incorporate some of the smokiness of the heat source into the meal. You can also use a tagine pot on top of a regular stove plate, but we all know that nothing compares to cooking on an open flame.
Throughout the Moroccan Arts tour, we will discover a wide variety of tagine tastes and ingredients. I love a great lamb tagine. Steaming hot, full of spices, with the meat so soft it dissolves in your tongue.
Classic tastes such as chicken and olives, lamb and apricots, and fish and cilantro are found all over with varying spiciness. Note that a tagine is not a curry, and should not take the top of your mouth off. A tagine is a dish with balanced spices that layer delicately on your tongue, creating a taste experience that will leave you coming back for seconds, or even thirds!
Le Grand Cafe De La Poste is situated just outside the ramparts of the Medina in Marrakech. It was built in the 1920s, but even so, holds an honoured place in the development of the city. The building was originally a post office but has now been restored to its flapper-era grandiosity, complete with ostrich feathers and wavy palms. Cafe De La Poste is renowned for its French cuisine, presented beautifully by a world-class French Chef. Each week the menu is different and reflects the fresh produce available in the city at the time.
One of the most recommended dishes on the menu throughout the year is the beef tartare. Traditionally tartare is a dish of uncooked meat, served with various accompaniments. De La Poste serves its beef tartare seared and served with egg yolk and sauteed potatoes. It is an absolute must-have!
The streets of Morocco are filled with amazing energy, smells and above all tastes. Moroccan street food can be found on every corner of the great markets and souks, and in almost every alley of the Medinas.
You can find sweet treats dripping with sticky syrup or honey, fried fish and other fresh seafood, grilled meats of all descriptions, and even hearty meals such as tagine and soups. Walking around the souks and streets can be incredibly hungry work! I am always happier when I have a tummy full of something delicious, even better when it is from one of the amazing food vendors or souks of Morocco!
On our Moroccan Arts tour, we will visit a variety of souks, tasting many scrumptious traditional dishes. We will sample hot flatbreads, fresh out of the centuries-old communal ovens. These ovens have been the lifeblood of the communities for hundreds of years.
Camel mincemeat or a whole roasted sheep’s head awaits the adventurous. Vegetarian dishes of all shapes and sizes abound, as do an astonishing array of honey varieties. A guided tour of Moroccan street food will give you insight into how the people of this amazing land prepare and eat their food on the go.
Khobz is a traditional Moroccan white bread that is served with almost every meal. It is baked in the communal ovens that I mentioned earlier. The bread is delicious. Crusty on the outside, soft and chewy in the middle, it is the perfect vehicle to carry any meal. Tagines are traditionally served with this bread in place of cutlery.
Moroccan bread comes in many shapes and sizes but is mostly made with yeast. Rise time is about an hour and usually completed while it waits in line for its place at the communal oven. When we explore traditional Moroccan bread on our Arts Tour, you get the chance to try your hand at an ancient recipe and bake it in a traditional oven.
Essaouira is a beautiful little Atlantic town with the freshest seafood I have ever tasted. I have lived in a number of seaside towns, including the Maldives, and I have never tasted seafood as amazing as the produce one finds here.
The fortifications at Essaouira date back to the 17th century, but the town itself is much, much older. A fishing village has been here for centuries, producing sardines, conger eels, prawns, crabs, lobster and a wide variety of fish. Today you can walk through the busy stalls, inspecting each one for the freshest and most delicious seafood.
On our Arts Tour, we will walk through the Medina looking at the amazing array of produce available at the stalls of the old town, sold the same way it has been for hundreds of years. At the end of the day, I will introduce you to my favourite seafood restaurant that makes the best seafood I have ever eaten!
Moroccan breakfast first and foremost involves bread. Lots of bread. Different shapes and sizes are used for different things, for example scooping up delicious golden, runny egg yolk. Breakfast is mostly a finger affair in Morocco. Lots of little bits make up a whole. Baskets of fresh pancakes, small bowls of olives and goats cheese, steaming hot eggs, sweet jams, rich creamy butter, all washed down with cups of refreshing mint tea and freshly squeezed orange juice.
Days are generally rather frenetic in most parts of Morocco, so making sure that you are fueled up before you begin is essential. If bread and fried eggs sound too heavy for you, you can also look forward to thick creamy Moroccan yoghurt. Yoghurt is served with a selection of honey and is often put into pancakes or baghrir, a flatbread made of semolina. Spreadable cheese is paired beautifully with olives and olive oil, providing a lighter bite for those who are less peckish.
Since Morocco has been quite heavily influenced by Mediterranean cultures, you will almost always find a range of pastries to go along with your more traditional breakfast fare. I personally love a hot buttered croissant!
I am sure that you have had couscous at some stage. However, I very much doubt that you have had Moroccon CousCous, the way it is meant to be eaten. Couscous is made from semolina flour, and, when we usually eat it, it is bought in a supermarket in a plastic bag. Real couscous is rolled from fresh flour, sifted and cooked to order.
All over Morocco, women are preparing couscous as a part of a cooperative. They band together to moisten and grind the flour into balls and then sell their product to provide money for their families.
Traditionally, couscous is not just a side dish, waiting in the shadow of the other star ingredients. Couscous is in itself the star. It is often eaten on a Friday for lunch, with a variety of extras. I love to have it with mouthwatering lamb and a selection of seasonal vegetables.
Traditionally served in a large ceramic plate called Gasaa, light and fluffy couscous is piled high with a variety of ingredients to top it off; usually a protein such as chicken or lamb and sometimes even fish. Vegetables are heaped on top, and the meal is served steaming hot with a fragrant broth made with ginger and spices is poured over the top or served on the side. You have not eaten couscous until you try it like this, in its original country!
Who doesn’t love a good slice of pie? In Morocco, there is really only one pie that has captured the country’s hearts. The Bastila, a sweet and salty pie that is found surprisingly mostly as an appetiser. This pie only graces tables on special occasions, or at high-end functions and events. If you are lucky enough to taste it, I promise that you will never forget the experience.
Moroccan food is not known for its calorie counting, and the Bastila pie is no exception. Covered in a flaky pastry, the filling of this delicious morsel was originally pigeon, but today it is mostly chicken. The origins of the Bastila is shrouded in mystery. Rumours say that it began as far back as the Berber tribes that founded the country a thousand years ago.
Much of Moroccan cuisine even today is based on traditional Berber food, so perhaps the stories are true? What is known is that during the 7th century Arabs introduced the wonders of the Spice trade to Morocco, bringing with them such treasures as cumin, cinnamon, paprika, and ginger. These spices now heavily flavour a traditional bastille.
At the beginning of the 16th century, many Spanish Muslims were forced out of their lands by invading Christians. They hopped over the straights of Gibraltar, straight into Morocco, and brought their cuisine with them. This is where the name of the pie comes from. Whatever the origins of the Bastila, I think it is safe to say that they have combined to create the perfect pastry morsel.
The taste of the pie is an exquisite mix of sweet and salty. The slow-cooked meat adds a salty flavour, while the phyllo like dough adds sweetness. A bastille is often slightly confusingly topped with cinnamon and sugar, although it is a savoury meat pie. If this sounds strange to you, then you’re not alone! The best way to get your mind around the mouth-watering morsel is to come and try it at its source, amazing Morocco!
Whether you have an adventurous palate or not, one thing I can promise you is that Moroccan cuisine has something for everyone. Culinary arts in Morocco is not just a form of everyday sustenance, it is a passion.
The very fibre of the country is influenced greatly by the food that the people eat. Sitting together and sharing a meal is the cornerstone of family life. I would love to introduce you to the magic of Morrocan food. From high-end marvels from some of the top Moroccan and French chefs in the world to humble meals with real Moroccan people.