Sampling tagine cooking in Morocco

In Morocco, it would be impossible – and foolish –not to try tagine cooking which is served, in one variation or another, in nearly every restaurant. It’s a slow-cooked stew served in a piping hot clay cone-shaped dish with an exceptionally delicious combinations of meat, vegetables, fruits and nuts.

Yam

When visiting Morocco, I sampled as many variations of tagine cooking as I could: chicken with apricots or lemon preserves and olives, or lamb served with dates. But, it was the slow-cooked beef with prunes that I most enjoyed – the beef so tender that it melted in my mouth, and the prunes were downright delicious. All of the dishes also included nuts, such as walnuts, almonds, pine nuts or pistachios, and are typically served with potatoes, couscous or a side of fresh bread.

The spices complete these dishes. Tagines are traditionally cooked with a variety of flavours commonly found in Morocco’s home-cooking, including saffron, ginger, cumin and turmeric. Inspired by histories of Arab, Spanish, French and African culture, this blend of seasoning with meat, preserved fruits and nuts is the perfect combination of sweet and sour flavours.

Tagine cooking was first introduced to Morocco by the Berbers, an indigenous community to North Africa, who slow cooked meat in tagines over charcoals — a method you can still see many homes or street vendors using, although in modern days, tagines have been made to withstand an oven or stove. The tagine lid is cone shaped, allowing for the juices and condensation to flow back down into the meat, a technique that was especially helpful for the traditional Berber communities who did not always have access to an abundance of water.

SOUP


Since returning home, I’ve tried many Moroccan restaurants, but nothing quite compared to the authentic and fresh flavors and foods I tasted, or the experience of having a smoking hot tagine served to your patio table watching the hustle and bustle of a Moroccan market go by.

Want to know more about Moroccan tagines?

  • Djej mquailli is a chicken tagine served with delicious preserved lemons, olives and couscous

  • Another popular tagine is kefta (spiced meatballs) served with eggs and tomato sauce

  • In the markets, you will see many ceramic tagines for sale. However, many are decorative serving dishes only! If you plan to cook with tagine, ensure you have one that was made for cooking and can withstand the heat

  • Click here for tagine recipes from our blog.

  • Click here to read about street food in Marrakesh.

Morocco: Street food and markets

Just a short flight from southern Spain, Morocco is a popular tourist destination for many Europeans looking for a new experience close to home; it’s also a perfect side trip to add on while travelling in Spain. If you’re planning to fully explore Morocco, Marrakesh is not to be missed.

The Medina of Marrakesh includes Jemaa el-Fnaa, North Africa’s largest square, marketplace and a UNESCO heritage site. It’s famed for its storytellers and the utter chaos surrounding it. Comprised of snake charmers, men with pet monkeys posing for photos, and women eager to give you henna tattoos; it’s a hodge-podge of spectacles. The square is also one of the main access points to the main souk – a labyrinth of market stalls hawking everything from argan oil gifts, leather goods, antique Berber jewelry, and fresh produce such as oranges or dates.

Snake charmer the market in Marrakesh

Colores

At nighttime, the snake charmers and fortune tellers make room for what may be considered the real charm of Jemaa el-Fnaa: the night market food stalls and story tellers.

Horse in market in Marrakesh

When dusk arrives, food vendors quickly erect over 100 food stalls where cooks, almost all of them wearing white coats, work over open flames, chopping vegetables and grilling kebabs or sausages. Market stalls are set up with beautiful displays of local produce, nuts, spices and pastries.

At the food stalls, you can get a real taste of Moroccan street food. For the really adventurous foodies, you can try local delicacies such as snail soup or sheep heads. Most of the food is cooked in front of diners sitting at makeshift tables, allowing you to see food safety precautions. While the food vendors hustle tourists to their tables, the night markets are equally enjoyed by local families coming out to watch the nightly performance of storytellers.

Street food vendor in Marrakesh

Helpful tips for eating at Jema El Fnaa

  • When you can’t read a menu, the best advice is to look around to see what others are eating and point!
  • Looking for dessert or a late night snack to bring back to your hotel? Stop by one of many carts selling an assortment of sweet pastries — deep fried filo pastries with almonds, cookies or dates
  • Overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle of the square? Ask your travel agent to help you organize a food tour through the market
  • Want to experience the night stalls from a different perspective? Try one of the many cafes with rooftop patios overlooking the square, or sit at a restaurant patio around the square
  • Enjoy a cup of Morocco’s beloved mint tea – usually extra sweet, or try a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice at one of the many stalls selling fresh produce in the square