Do you love to use spices in your cooking? Are you a fan of hot and sweet flavors? Is cooking international cuisine a joy to you? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you'll love Moroccan cooking.
Moroccan cooking is unique in that it is based on a color codification system that tells the chef if the meal is prepared properly. A myriad of spices is used to bring out each dish's distinct color profile. Cinnamon, cardamom, and turmeric are high on the list in Moroccan meals, as is Ras el Hanout, a super-spice consisting of over a dozen spices.
The four styles below are determined by the spices used to make them hearty and satisfying:
M'qualli - yellow; marked by saffron and ginger; primarily made with chicken or other meats
M'qualli is a common Moroccan style of cooking that is used in everyday meals. A primary sautéed dish, m'qaulli meals are usually made with chicken and smothered in daghmira sauce (onion sauce.) Its yellow hue comes from the presence of turmeric in the sauce, adding bitterness to the dish. Want to impress your friends? Have them try one of the most famous m'qaulli dishes -- chicken with olives and preserved lemons.
Qadra - yellow; marked with saffron and pepper; primarily made with chicken and chickpeas
For elegance and sophistication, serving up a buttery, peppery qadra (kadra) is the way to go. Qadra is a stew dish, typically made with a blend of chicken and chickpeas. Cinnamon is added for sweetness with smen (preserved butter) to create a simple, light, and tasty meal.
Due to Fes customs, there are strict rules that must be followed when making a qadra. For one, a tagine must never be used; only a pot. Likewise, ginger is, in many cases, prohibited. Keeping these rules in mind is essential when you're looking for authenticity.
M'hammar - red; marked with paprika and cumin; primarily made with chicken
M'hammar is a savory red Moroccan dish primarily made with chicken that is first cooked on a stove top then roasted to enrich its color and taste. Paprika gives it its signature look and adds the necessary spiciness to make the dish pop while butter brings out the m'hammar's saltiness. Almonds are also used for extra crunch.
Since m'hammar is primarily a meat dish, it's interesting to note the absence of vegetables in most variations.
Mchermel - red; marked with paprika and saffron; primarily made with fish and vegetables
A mchermel consists of meat, usually fish, paired with vegetables and marinated in a thick sauce. Due to this, mchermel meals have a vibrant red color, deeper than m'hammar. Like many Moroccan dishes, lemons and olives are used for extra flavor and pungency.
One thing to always remember when making any Moroccan dish is to make a good marqa. What's a marqa? A marqa is a sauce that blends with the meal and comes in spicy and savory variations. Keep in mind the consistency of the marqa -- the more oily, the better! The right amount of oil intensifies the flavor and signals the mark of a seasoned chef.
A particularly popular marqa is a Moroccan marinade known as chermoula. Created from a mixture of garlic, cumin, chili peppers, and saffron, chermoula pairs well with fish or topped on a salad. Spicy Moroccan tomato sauce is also used to pump up the taste of chicken, especially when blended with harissa (hot chili pepper paste.)
Finally, a great way to add tartness to a marqa is to use preserved lemons. Preserved lemons are used a lot in Moroccan cooking. Stuffed with kosher salt, they're preserved for 30 days in a jar until ready, where they're used as a lovely accent to any meat or tagine (stew.)
The colorful styles and tangy sauces make Moroccan cooking an art unto itself. When you're ready to try a dash of something different, add a Moroccan meal to your menu or come by and try our sumptuous fare at Kous Kous.