Best of Moroccan Cuisine
Eating in Morocco means savoring dishes with centuries of history and features of cultures as different as Sephardic, Sub-Saharan or Oriental. Moroccan gastronomy, which derives from the ancient Berber dynasties, is extremely varied and, of course, goes far beyond couscous and mint tea.
Moroccan cuisine is popular and inexpensive, but it draws from its splendid medieval past, when Morocco was a leading power in the Mediterranean. The main meal is at midday (except in the month of Ramadan, of course), and weddings, births and religious feasts are the main occasions for diffas (banquets), as well as the return of the faithful from Mecca.
Moroccans eat with the first three fingers of the right hand, except for couscous and soups, which are eaten with a spoon. The most commonly used cooking utensil is the tagine, a large baked and glazed earthenware dish covered with a conical lid and placed directly over the fire. The most common cooking utensil is the tagine, a large earthenware dish covered with a conical lid and placed directly over the fire. Vegetables abound in Morocco and are of high quality. Also dried fruits (dates, walnuts, raisins, almonds), citrus fruits (the best oranges in the world, they say), and, in the coastal regions, fish and seafood. Lamb and chicken are the most consumed meats and are prepared in many ways: tagine, marinated, grilled (kebaps), stewed or in stuffed pastries.
Spices are omnipresent in all the markets of the Maghreb, and are often sold already mixed in a preparation called ras al hanut. Fresh herbs include mint, parsley and coriander and, as throughout the Mediterranean, it is cooked with olive oil and, to a lesser extent, with Argan nut oil). Couscous and the famous pita bread are also at the base of the Moroccan diet.
Sweets are another reason to Morocco Tours. Almond and honey-based pastries, excellent fruit and natural flavoring (rose water and orange blossom water, among others) make Arab pastries a real luxury.
Finally, tea -always green- is a real institution throughout the Maghreb and is served five times a day, well loaded with sugar and mint.
The tangiya is the star dish of the city of Marrakech. It consists of a delicious lamb stew marinated with spices and lemon that is prepared in a clay pot, also called tangiya (content by continent, like paella), and simmered in wood-fired ovens, or farnatchi.
Despite not being a festive meal, it is a classic at gatherings of friends and one of the reasons why it is worth traveling to the Red City. Of course, it is traditionally cooked only by men.
If there is something they do well in Morocco is to combine sweet and savory, and the bisteeya is a delicious proof of that. Considered one of the most sophisticated dishes of Moroccan gastronomy, bisteeya is a pastry made with sheets of warka (a pastry similar to puff pastry), alternated with a layer of chicken or pigeon with eggs, and another of almond paste. It is typical in the city of Fez, and is served -attention- sprinkled with cinnamon and powdered sugar.
In the Sahara they also make pizzas, and they make them spectacularly well. They are known as madfouna or Berber pizzas, and are made with two flat, round bread doughs, between which is placed a mixture of meat, vegetables and hard-boiled eggs. These “pizzas” – which are actually closer to pies – are native to the Merzouga region, and are baked in a fire made directly on the ground, wrapped and covered with desert sand (madfouna, in fact, means “buried”).
Chermoula is a very popular fish marinade along the Maghreb coast. As is often the case, its ingredients vary from region to region, although fresh coriander, oil and garlic are always present. It also usually contains lemon confit (another Moroccan classic), onion, olives, various spices and some spice. Chermoula is used to season fish that is grilled or tagine, and it looks amazing.
Of Berber origin, couscous (those tiny little balls of steamed semolina) is a real institution throughout North Africa. It is prepared almost daily in the famous couscous cookers – present throughout Morocco – and accompanies vegetables, legumes, chicken, lamb, veal or fish. Sweet couscous is also made as a dessert, with milk and sugar.
At the foot of the Atlas Mountains, winter is severe, and hearty broths are appreciated. The most traditional of them, the harira, is a “Moorish soup” made with meat, eggs, noodles, tomatoes and vegetables, which is served very hot and as a unique dish. It is especially appreciated at eliftar (the end of the daily fast during Ramadan), to regain strength after a long day without food.
Dishes cooked with this clay utensil are called tagine. The tagine is the main dish of a meal, and can be chicken, lamb, fish, veal or vegetables, or also be made as a dessert, with fruits.to prepare a tagine, you must first fry the ingredients and then cook them over low heat and covered: the result is always very tender, since the container retains all the steam from cooking.
VEAL TAGINE WITH PLUMS
This tagine is one of the most spectacular dishes in Morocco and is usually served on special occasions, such as a wedding or a family reunion. As in so many other cases, here the salty flavor of the veal is mixed with the sweetness of almonds, plums, sugar and cinnamon, and the result is at the level of the most exquisite cuisines.
KEFTA TAGINE WITH EGGS
For this dish minced beef is usually used, which is mixed with onion and spices and cooked in small balls -something like meatballs-, accompanied by a sauce and eggs. Eggs, by the way, are poured into the tagine and left to cook, like the Spanish “huevos al plato”. The taste and aroma of the whole thing is wonderful.
Morocco is a country with a long fishing tradition that extends along its 3,500 km of coastline. It is not surprising, then, that its fish tagines are first class, and are exquisitely prepared in any coastal town. Tasting a tagine of fresh sea bass or sea bream in Essaouira, Safi, Tarfaya or Yellich is to understand definitively why this country is so appealing.
These small triangular-shaped pastries are reminiscent of our dumplings and come with a multitude of fillings, both sweet and savory. They are made with sheets of warka (similar to puff pastry), which are fried in boiling oil, and can be filled with anything from chicken to almond paste and honey. They are served hot or cold, in sophisticated restaurants or in street stalls, on plates or simply picked up with paper napkins. Their taste is breathtaking.
If winter is hard in Morocco, summer is not far behind and, to combat it, Moroccans make use of cold dishes. This is the case of zaalouk, a dish based on cooked eggplant served as an appetizer along with other starters, such as hummus, and eaten with pita bread. It dilates the pupils of how good it is.
A gastronomic experience in Morocco will not be complete without trying the authentic Berber omelet, which has, in addition to eggs, onion, bell pepper, tomato, spices and fresh herbs. In some regions they are made with beaten eggs just like the Spanish omelette, but in others they let the eggs curdle as if they were eggs on a plate. In both cases, the excellent raw material and the cooking with the tagine guarantee an exquisite taste.
MOROCCAN BREAD: PITA, MSAMAN AND HARCHA
Moroccan bread is famous for its intense flavor and variety. It is mainly made with wheat flour (such as pita bread, which is unleavened), although corn semolina is also used, as in the case of harcha, which is also fried. Also famous is the msaman, a kind of crepe without eggs that Moroccans usually eat for breakfast.
“Berber whiskey” they jokingly call Morocco’s national drink. The mint tea, or mint tea, is prepared in the precious Arab metal teapots (formerly made of brass or silver, today of stainless steel), and is drunk five times a day according to tradition. Despite its extraordinary roots throughout the Maghreb, it is not as old as it seems: it arrived in North Africa in the 19th century, brought from India by the British.