Moroccan food is hearty and flavorful. It is both easy to make and yet exotic, redolent with fragrances from this intriguing desert land.
Moroccan recipes rely on certain staples which were developed centuries ago to preserve foods in the punishing climate of North Africa.
Now you can easily transport yourself to Marrakech by whipping up some of these delicious dishes or treating yourself to Moroccan cuisine at an authentic restaurant specializing in recipes from the region.
Here are some basic tips about Moroccan cuisine which will enhance your enjoyment of your meal:
1. Couscous is Key
Couscous is considered the national dish of Morocco and is a staple of the daily diet. It can come in large pearls or tiny grains. It is generally supposed to be healthier and less fattening than rice.
Couscous is a Maghrebi dish made from crushed durum wheat semolina. It is served with a stew, but can also be mixed with salads or grilled vegetables and meats.
Other Moroccan dishes also use rains like wheat berries, cracked wheat, and bulgur.
2. Distinctive Spices Set Moroccan Cuisine Apart
Due to its location at the intersection of many trade routes, Moroccan cuisine incorporated spices through the centuries from all over the world. Now, its dishes may include everything from coriander and cinnamon to cumin and saffron.
Ras-el-Hanout is a blend of spices which translates as 'head of the shop': it is traditionally used in the favorite Moroccan form of cooking called tagines. A tagine is a stew which is cooked in and served in a particular pot resembling a hat.
A major Moroccan crop is saffron, the world's most expensive spice. A small pinch of this elixir adds a subtle flavor and vivid golden color to your food.
3. Bread Serves A Dual Function at the Moroccan Table
Bread is considered both a food and a utensil in Morocco: you are expected to eat it and use it to sop up the other food on your plate.
The sheer variety of bread in Moroccan cuisine is dazzling. For example, you may enjoy krachel, a sweet roll made of green anise seeds, sesame seeds, and orange flower water for breakfast. Msemen is a flat pancake-like bread which is filled with meat. Mahrash is a rough, round bread used for scooping meat and veggies.
Khobz Mzaweg means "decorated bread:" the baker will form designs into the bread with knife cuts, seeds and a mixture of doughs.
4. Preserved Lemons Add a Splash of Citrus
Another essential ingredient of Moroccan cuisine is preserved lemons, which add their distinct and fruity tang to many dishes.
You will be able to find these easily in any of Morocco's famous outdoor marketplaces, but they may be harder to find here in the U.S.
Some chefs cure their own by pickling the lemons in kosher salt for a month or longer.
5. Chickpeas are a Common Ingredient
t's easy to go vegetarian with dishes from North Africa. Chickpeas are a standard base for many vegetarian stews and recipes.
Chickpeas, otherwise known as garbanzo beans, are heralded for their health benefits like helping digestion and protecting against heart disease. They are a plant-based protein that also contains many minerals and vitamins.
If you like hummus, you will also like some of the many other ways Moroccan cuisine incorporates this versatile legume.
You Don't have to Travel to Africa to Enjoy Traditional Moroccan Cuisine
Moroccan cuisine is easily cooked at home, or it can be enjoyed in some of the many excellent North African restaurants that have sprung up in major cities around the U.S.
For more information on this tasty and healthy kind of cooing, keep checking our blog for new posts.