Morocco, unlike most other African countries, produces all the food it needs to feed its people. Its many home-grown fruits and vegetables include oranges, melons, tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, and potatoes.
Five more native products that are especially important in Moroccan cooking are lemons, olives, figs, dates, and almonds. Located on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, the country is rich in fish and seafood. Beef is not plentiful, so meals are usually built around lamb or poultry. Flat, round Moroccan bread is eaten at every meal. The Moroccan national dish is the tajine, a lamb or poultry stew. Other common ingredients may include almonds, hard-boiled eggs, prunes, lemons, tomatoes, and other vegetables. The tajine, like other Moroccan dishes, is known for its distinctive flavoring, which comes from spices including saffron, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, ginger, and ground red pepper. The tajine’s name is taken from the distinctive earthenware dish with a cone-shaped top in which it is cooked and served. Another Moroccan dietary staple is couscous, made from fine grains of a wheat product called semolina. It is served many different ways, with vegetables, meat, or seafood. Sweets play a very important role in the Moroccan diet. Every household has a supply of homemade sweet desserts made from almonds, honey, and other ingredients. Mint tea is served with every meal in Morocco. It is sweetened while it is still in the pot.
A_MEALTIME CUSTOMS Moroccans eat their meals at low round tables, sitting on cushions on the floor. They eat with their hands instead of silverware, using the thumb and first two fingers of their right hands. They also use pieces of bread to soak up sauces and carry food to the mouth. Small warmed, damp towels are passed around before the meal to make sure everyone’s hands are clean. Most meals consist of a single main dish, often a stew, a couscous dish, or a hearty soup. It is served with bread, salad, cold vegetables, and couscous or rice on the side. A typical breakfast might include beyssara (dried fava beans stewed with cumin and paprika), beghrir (pancakes), and bread. Two breakfast favorites that may sound exotic to Westerners are lambs’ heads and calves’ feet .
Although Moroccans love sweets, they are usually saved for special occasions. With everyday meals, the most common dessert is fresh fruit. The sweetened mint tea that comes with every meal is served a special way. It is brewed in a silver teapot and served in small glasses. When the tea is poured, the pot is held high above the glasses to let air mix with the tea. Tea is served not only at home but also in public places. In stores, merchants often offer tea to their customers. Morocco is famous for the wide range of delicious foods sold by its many street vendors. These include soup, shish kebab, roasted chickpeas, and salads. Both full meals and light snacks are sold. A favorite purchase is sugared doughnuts tied together on a string to carry home.
Examples of Traditional Dishes :
Tajin : Moroccan tajines often combine lamb or chicken with a medley of ingredients or seasonings: olives, quinces apples, pears, apricots, raisins, prunes, dates, nuts, with fresh or preserved lemons, with or without honey, with or without a complexity of spices. Traditional spices that are used to flavour tajines include ground cinnamon, saffron, ginger, turmeric, cumin, paprika, pepper, as well as the famous spice blend ras el hanout. Turkey meat is also sometimes used.Some famous tajine dishes are mqualli or mshermel (both are pairings of chicken, olives and citrus fruits, though preparation methods differ), kefta (meatballs in an egg and tomato sauce), and mrouzia (lamb, raisins and almonds). Other ingredients for a tajine may include any product that braises well: fish, quail,pigeon, beef, root vegetables, legumes, even amber and agarwood.Modern recipes in the West include pot roasts, ossobuco, lamb shanks and turkey legs. Seasonings can be traditional Moroccan spices, French, Italian or suited to the dish.
Couscous: This famous Moroccan dish features a mound of steamed couscous topped by stewed vegetables and meat. Very delicious! The couscous itself is actually a diminutive form of pasta, traditionally shaped by hand-rolling semolina flour with water until the requisite balls begin to distinguish themselves from the finer semolina. The newly-shaped couscous is then passed through a sieve to separate larger balls from smaller ones, or to give consistent size to the couscous taking shape. Rather than hand-rolling, many Moroccan cooks now buy their couscous in a dry form. Both freshly rolled couscous and dry couscous are cooked by steaming the couscous several times in a couscoussier. This allows each couscous grain to become plump and tender without clumping to each other. Instant couscous, widely available in Western supermarkets, is reconstituted by the simple addition of hot broth or liquid. Instant couscous is not regarded very highly by Moroccans and should not be confused with the dry couscous which must be steamed.
Serving the Couscous and Vegetables: Empty the couscous into the large bowl, and break it apart. Mix in the 2 tablespoons of butter with 2 ladles of sauce. To serve the couscous, shape it into a mound with a well in the center. Put the meat into the well, and arrange the vegetables on top and all around. Distribute the sauce evenly over the couscous and vegetables, reserving one or two bowlfuls to offer on the side for those who prefer more sauce.
Harira(Soup) : Harira is the traditional Berber soup of Morocco. It is usually eaten during dinner in the Muslim holy month of Ramadan to break the fasting day. It is considered as a meal in itself. It is also served to relatives and friends after a special celebration, such as the morning after a wedding night, and its recipe varies then slightly from the harira eaten during Ramadan. Of course, it could be prepared any time, however, some families prefer to stick to tradition and serve it on special occasions. It is usually served with hard-boiled eggs sprinkled with salt and cumin, dates and other favorite dried fruits like figs, traditional honey sweets and other goodies (special bread or crepes) prepared at home.
Procedure : 1. In a large saucepan, heat half the oil. Add the onion and cook 10 minutes, until soft. 2. Add the garlic, turmeric, ginger, and cumin and cook a few more minutes. 3. Stir in the stock and add the lentils and tomatoes. 4. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer 20 minutes or until the lentils are soft. 5. Stir in the chickpeas, remaining olive oil, cilantro, parsley, salt, pepper and lemon juice (if using), and simmer 5 more minutes.
Salads : Green salad: The “green salad” or “garden salad” is most often composed of leafy vegetables such as lettuce varieties, spinach, or rocket (arugula). Due to their low caloric density, green salads are a common diet food. The salad leaves may be cut or torn into bite-sized fragments and tossed together (called a tossed salad), or may be placed in a predetermined arrangement (a composed salad).
Vegetable salad : Vegetables other than greens may be used in a salad. Common vegetables used in a salad include cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, spring onions, red onions, avocado, carrots, celery, and radishes. Other ingredients, such as olives, hard boiled egg, artichoke hearts, heart of palm, roasted red bell peppers, green beans, croutons, cheeses, meat (e.g. bacon, chicken), or seafood (e.g. tuna, shrimp), are sometimes added to salads.
Mint Tea: The most popular drink is green tea with mint. Traditionally, making good mint tea in Morocco is considered an art form and the drinking of it with friends and family is often a daily tradition. The pouring technique is as crucial as the quality of the tea itself. Moroccan tea pots have long, curved pouring spouts and this allows the tea to be poured evenly into tiny glasses from a height. For the best taste, glasses are filled in two stages. The Moroccans traditionally like tea with bubbles, so while pouring they hold the teapot high above the glasses. Finally, the tea is accompanied with hard sugar cones or lumps.