Morocco nestled on the north-western coast of the African continent bordering the shores of the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea is unique in many ways. It has an Arabic culture but heavily influenced by the French who have been there for a long time. The strait of Gibraltar separates Europe and the African continent, hence Morocco and Spain.
For hundreds of years, the Moors have been trading with Spaniards before they invaded the country. Moors ruled a good portion of Spain for 800 years, until Cardinal Mendoza of Spain and Mazarin of France with combined efforts forced them back to Morocco, in 1492.
Today, some 75 per cent of the population consists of Berbers, who are not Arabs. Muslims came in the seventh century and intermarried Arabs. Even now Berber tribes have different interpretations of the religion although Arabs rule the country. Berbers are generally rural people, and involved with animal husbandry.
There are prosperous Christian and Jewish communities in large cities like Casablanca, Fes, and Rabat.
Only 10 per cent of the country is arable, and by necessity Moroccan cuisine relies heavily on legumes, fish, chicken and little meat, buy a lot of vegetables. Citrus fruits and dates are common in season. Most sub-tropical fruits are widely grown and soma are exported to as far away as North America.
A variety of cultures have reached into Moroccan kitchens. Spanish chickpeas, Arabian spices, Portuguese fish dishes, and African and Senegalese spicy sauces have their distinct place with ancient Berber dishes. Couscous, tajine, bisteya, and mechui are all Moroccan specialties. Moroccans like most Mediterranean peoples consume inordinate amounts of bread, sweet pastries, and use olive oil in cooking. Almonds and seasonal vegetables play a significant role in flavouring Moroccan dishes.
Milk consumption is low for lack of arable land and efficient distribution system. Moroccan food has humble beginnings; it is the artistry and ingenuity of housewives that make the cuisine interesting. Food preparation is elaborate and seasoning complex. Spices are used not only in foods but also in perfumes, medicines, not to speak of magical portions to cure every imaginable disease.
Spices are used to enhance the flavour of the main ingredient(s) and not to mask it. Black pepper, cayenne, cumin, saffron, ginger, turmeric, paprika, cinnamon, all spice, clove, cardamom, and coriander seeds are the main herbs and spices of the Moroccan cuisine.
Charmoula is a highly seasoned sauce consisting of herbs, garlic, cayenne, and lemon juice used in a number of soups, marinades and dishes.
Desserts are equally flavoured with rose- and orange flower water.
Tajine is one oft eh most famous specialties of the Moroccan cuisine. Actually the dish is called after the earthenware vessel in which the food is cooked. The shape of the cover that resembles an inverted china-cup some claim, gives the food its spectacular flavour.
Tajine can be prepared with chicken, lamb, beef, or veal. Raisins, onions, green olives, tomatoes, lemon confit, cumin, powdered ginger, salt and pepper, saffron, parsley and garlic are the flavouring agents.
Sauté meat and add water to cook on low heat. Meanwhile sauté onions, garlic, tomatoes, herbs and spices. Pour sauce into the tajine, and add the meat. Cover and cook on low heat until meat is done.
Unquestionably, one of the most famous Moroccan specialties is couscous. It can be served as a one-course family meal or at the end of a ceremonial banquet.
Couscous is very thin pasta cut into very small pieces and can be flavoured with a number of vegetables, and/or meats. Fresh couscous preparation requires skill and time. Today, most housewives buy instant couscous. Couscous should be steamed and flavouring cooked separately. Before service, the pasta is served garnished with whatever flavouring was prepared.
Here are two typical Moroccan banquet menus:
Couscous as desired
Bastela with milk
Moroccans prefer mint tea to regular black tea and small cups of boiled coffee.
Breakfast is always very light consisting of tea or coffee ad a small pastry or bread, cheese and olives.
Lunch is the principal meal of the day and generally taken with the family.
Dinner may be light consisting of savoury pastries, salads, fruits and/or sweets.
|Writer – Hrayr Berberoglu – E-mail – Read his books?
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