Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Moroccan Food

Moroccans eat well. There's no competition anywhere in the world, as far as I'm concerned. Their ingredients are fresh, the meals prepared with pride and precision. A tagine or cous cous, both common dishes in Morocco can take several hours to prepare and cook. The locals seem unfazed by this and day after day, spend much of their time in the kitchen creating masterpieces for their families or visitors alike.

But first, let's start with tea.

Moroccan mint tea is prepared from fresh mint leaves, gunpowder tea (a form of green tea) and a mountain of sugar. The intense sweetness can be overwhelming at first, but, for a sweet tooth like me, easy to get used to. I was served this beautiful platter at my hotel on my first day in Casablanca, but tea in this country is served widely and in all social and private settings.

Here is a pot of tea being boiled at a nomad camp in the Todra Gorge where we were welcomed by the family for a rest stop.

The market, or souk, is the place to go for your fruit, vegetables, meat, nuts, spices, olives and sweets.

These olives will make anyone salivate.

This man's tiny stall is taken over by the varieties of nuts.

Sweets anyone?

And you just can't forget the spices.

The atmosphere and the energy of the Moroccan markets, which exist in every town and city, can be electric for the first time visitor.

A typical Moroccan dish is the tagine, a stew of meat (often lamb or chicken), covered in vegetables and slow-cooked in a conical, ceramic dish, also called a tagine. It's standard practice to have six basic spices in these tagines, cumin, ginger, saffron, paprika, salt and pepper. There are also other varieties - kefta, which is meatballs with egg, lamb with prunes, or just vegetarian.

Now for something a little different, and one of my favourite local dishes of Morocco. A pastilla is shredded chicken and almonds wrapped in pastry then sprinkled with, oddly enough, cinnamon and sugar. It sounds unusual but tastes superb.

Avocado juice also sounds a little wrong but tastes just like a creamy thickshake.

And snails anyone? I wasn't brave enough to try those.

I did try a camel burger though. It tasted like beef. And onions.

If you're not entirely convinced that they eat their camels in Morocco...

I will end on this note - whatever the Moroccans choose to eat, it must be fresh. In the seaside town of Essaouira, fish is caught in the morning and cooked to your liking in little stalls mere metres from the water. It could well be in your mouth just minutes after that.

Hope you've enjoyed this post. More of Morocco to come!

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