Food & Drink
Moroccan food has had many influences over the centuries as people have travelled from all over the world to trade their goods using the trade links through the Sahara and plying their goods across the royal cities of Fez, Marrakech, Rabat and Meknes. With them they not only came with their spices and herbs but a multitude of ideas derived from their own cultures. The Carthaginians and Phoenicians brought wheat and sausages, the Berbers created couscous, and due to the trade links the Arabs brought with them saffron, ginger, cloves and cinnamon. Pastries and bread came with the Turks. All around are centuries of influence that have gone into creating the delicious foods served at a Moroccan table.
Moroccan meals are predominantly meat based and infused with plenty of herbs and spices. A variety of meats can be used but they are usually either chicken or lamb. Spices are plenty and can be found loose in most souks, saffron is especially cheap and used in a lot of main meals. Saffron was found between Agadir and Ouarzazate and adds beautiful colour and flavour to the food. Although expensive in the west, here in North Africa it is relatively cheap to buy. Other most commonly used spices are ginger, turmeric and cumin. Pepper and course white salt are also used to season food. Another key ingredient used by Moroccans is preserved lemons which can add an interesting characteristic flavour to a meal. They are often pickled in salt and their own juices and give the meal a salty lemon taste.
Moroccans also use the following herbs in their cooking such as parsley, cilantro, and mint for tea. Verbena and marjolane are also used in tea and anise is used for bread and pastries. Thyme, unusually, is used in some desserts with apricots and figs. Red and green olives are also popular in Moroccan food and these are used as condiments and garnishes or in tajines as part of a main meal. Sesame seeds are popular and again are used to garnish a number of different dishes, as well as in breads and other baked foods such as pastries. Almonds are used in both meals and desserts, blanched and peeled.
Couscous is very popular here and is a staple food. This is made from semolina and is usually served with meat, along with a variety of nuts, fruits and vegetables. If the tajine had never been invented then couscous would be the main meal eaten by Moroccans. It is very filling and extremely versatile.
The main meal will probably come in a tajine and this is an earthenware pot that usually has an oval base and a funnel top. They come in different sizes and are designed help foods cook slowly and keep their flavours, so that the meat and vegetables can absorb the herbs and spices. The food must be flavoured by the spices and not completely smothered by them. There is usually more than one type of tajine, one used to serve food at the table, and one to cook the food in the oven. The way that Moroccans season their food can differ greatly as Moroccans usually cook from memory rather than from a traditional recipe book.
Dessert is either fruit or pastries. Fruit is in abundance here because of the weather and cherries, oranges, tomatoes, melons and apples are grown by the Moroccans. There is also an abundance of vegetables with the excellent climate. Pastries can also be served and go down well with mint tea. Two popular pastries are cornes de gazelle and briouates which have a rich almond filling. Mint tea is a ritual in itself and would usually come at the end of a meal. This drink is really used for showing hospitality to your guests in the Moroccan home. The ingredients comprise of mint leaves with added sugar and the tea is left to brew until is infused with flavour and deemed strong enough to drink. During Ramadan alcohol isn’t touched by Moroccans, however, at other times the younger generation especially, enjoy a drink and alcohol is served at bars, hotels, and shops.