Experience Morocco: 5 tips for a gastronomical experience in Morocco

1. Enjoy fresh dates

Throughout the markets, you will see street vendors selling boxes of various kinds of dates, including the plump Medjool or Halawi dates. Symbols of good luck, dates are very much a part of Moroccan culture. Not only are they a source of agriculture, but they are celebrated and enjoyed during religious occasions. Every year in October, after the harvest, there is an annual Festival of the Date in the desert town, Erfoud, in the eastern part of the country. The festival, which occurs over three days, includes camel races and traditional music.

DATE VENDOR

2. Try a cooking class

Across the country in popular tourist cities, Morocco offers a range of cooking classes in traditional Moroccan fare. In these classes, you can learn more about the wide selection of spices used in Moroccan cooking, how to cook with a tagine or even how to prepare a traditional feast. Your travel consultant can help you find a riad – a traditional Moroccan house often used as a hotel – which also offers cooking classes.

3. Explore the markets

Many cooking classes will include a trip to the market to choose fresh ingredients for your class. Touring with a guide will really help you to learn more about unfamiliar foods and spices. Shopping in souks can be overwhelming for North Americans where haggling is the name of the game. Shopping with a guide can ease the experience.

MARKET VISITORS

4. Drink tea

There is a precise method to preparing Moroccan mint tea that involves adding the perfect blend of spearmint, green tea and sugar at different times in the process of boiling and steeping. Quite unlike North American tea, Moroccan mint tea is almost always served in beautifully engraved silver tea pots, ceremoniously poured into equally beautiful decorated clear glasses. Look for these tea pots in the markets to take one home with you!

TEAPOT

5. Try new things

While some of us are a little more adventurous than others when it comes to new cuisine, exploring international cuisine doesn’t mean having to step too far out of your comfort zone. In Morocco, it can be simply the blend of spices, ingredients or the cooking style that makes the food a gastro experience. One of the best things about Moroccan cooking is that it is as rich as its cultural influences; many dishes are a combination of Arab, French, Spanish and indigenous Berber cuisines.

Want more?

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.

Exotic Dishes from Morocco- Tagine


Tagine

Tagine is historically a Berber dish. It is a stew made of meats and vegetables and traditionally cooked in a conical pot to allow the steam to rise, condense and drip back down into the stew. Tagines are traditionally prepared on top of a portable clay majmar (much cheaper than a stove!) under which people put coals. Practically anything can be turned into a tagine – meat, chicken, fish, vegetables and some even make it with meat and fruits. Every part of the country has it’s regional tagine dish and different ways to prepare it. Because this meal takes a long time to prepare, the woman of the house starts preparing the lunch tagine as soon as breakfast is over.

Lamb, Prune and Date Tagine (Serves 2-4)
This dish is a traditional Moroccan tagine. Because it is sweet and it includes dates, it’s often served when company is invited.

Ingredients:

• ½ kg (1 lb) shoulder of lamb or beef, or one small chicken

• 250 grams (1/2 lb) dried prunes (around 30 prunes)

• 6 dates (pitted)

• 1 large red onion, sliced

• 200 grams (1/2 lb) roasted almonds

• 1 cinnamon stick

• ginger

• mrozia spice (ras al hanout) if available

• pinch of saffron

• salt & pepper

Method:

  1. Wash the prunes and put them in one litre of water. Let them sit.
  2. Put olive oil and lamb into a big pot or tagine. Cook on high flame, turning the lamb on all sides.
  3. Add ginger, cinnamon, onion, ras al hanoot and saffron. Lower the flame to medium. Mix for one minute.il and lamb into a big pot or tagine. Cook on high flame, turning the lamb on all sides.
  4. Remove prunes from water and put aside. Pour prune water into the pot with lamb. Let the meat cook for 1‐1/2 hours (or until cooked) on a low flame. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Add prunes and dates in the last 15 minutes. Add almonds when you serve the dish.

 


Tagine of Lamb with Quinces (Serves 6-8)

Ingredients:

• 1. kg (3 lb) shoulder of lamb

• 250‐grams (1/2 lb) dried apricots (around 30 apricots)

• 100 grams (4 oz) skinless almonds

• 1 onion, chopped• 5 Tbsp vegetable oil

• salt and freshly ground pepper

• . tsp ground ginger

• . tsp ground cinnamon

• . tsp saffron threads

• 3 quinces (about 1 kg)

Method:

  1. Wash the quinces. Boil them whole for about 30 minutes or until they feel soft. (time will vary depending on the size and ripeness) Drain them, and when cool enough to handle, cut them into quarters. Remove the cores, but don’t peel them.
  2. In a large skillet, saute the quarters in a little vegetable oil until the cut sides brown. This gives them a nice caramelized flavour.
  3. Wash apricots and put them in 1 liter (1 qt) of water and let sit for while your brown the lamb.
  4. Cut lamb into about 6‐8 pieces (or have your butcher do this). Heat 2 Tbsp of vegetable oil in a large pot or dutch oven and brown the lamb pieces. Add the salt, pepper, ginger, cinnamon, saffron, olive oil and onion. Mix for 1 minute on medium flame. Leave for 5 minutes.
  5. Remove the apricots from the water and set aside. Add the water to pot with lamb. Let meat cook for 1‐1/2 hrs. (or until cooked) on low flame. During this time, fry the almonds.
  6. Add the quince to the meat, skin side down and cook for about 20‐30 minutes until they are soft – but don’t let them fall apart. Remove the meat and quince from the pot and keep warm.

Bon Appétit!