The Kingdom of Morocco is a state in North-West Africa, washed by the waters of the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. The favorable location and favorable climate have long attracted the attention of neighbors, therefore, over the past millennium, power in the territory has repeatedly passed into the hands of new rulers.
As a result, Moroccan cuisine, in addition to the traditions of the indigenous people – Berbers, has absorbed Arab and European features.
Moroccan cuisine – what it is
The ancient Berber tribes switched to sedentary agriculture during the Neolithic period (about 9500 BC). They raised goats and sheep and raised millet.
Since the end of the 2nd millennium BC. outside influences began on the local culture. The Phoenicians and Romans brought with them new agricultural traditions. From this period, the Berbers began to cultivate grapes, olive and fig trees (figs), as well as durum wheat.
Since the 700s. AD the territory of Morocco was included in the Arab Caliphate. One of the programs implemented by the conquerors was the Islamic agrarian revolution, during which the cultivation of irrigated crops began – rice, sugar cane, cotton.
Drought-resistant wheat became widespread. The influence of the Arabs on the local cuisine was expressed in the manner of combining sweet and sour tastes and emphasizing that of meat with the sweetness of honey, fruit or sugar. The range of used spices has expanded.
XIX century. and the first half of the XX century. were marked by the strengthening of the influence of European countries on Morocco. This period enriched the national cuisine with new recipes. A striking example is the festive bastilla pie (pastilla). It came from Spain, and, according to various versions, it was brought by the Moors or Sephardim – Spanish Jews.
Thus, Moroccan cuisine became a mixture of culinary traditions of many peoples. All national dishes are characterized by rich aromas, thickness, and delicate texture.
- unusual combinations of tastes in one dish (sour, salty and spicy foods are combined with sweet ones);
- adding a lot of spices to food;
- many cereal dishes;
- lamb as the main meat product;
- sweetening of meat;
- stewing it in its own juice;
- steaming food;
- the use of specific dishes;
- a large number of vegetables and fruits.
Foods prepared from the same ingredients can be both first courses and an appetizer – spread on bread. It depends on their density.
What products are mainly used
The basis of the Moroccan culinary tradition is grain, mainly wheat. It is used to make bread, pastries and couscous. The second most popular is barley.
Both cereals are used in the preparation of soups and cereals. According to statistics, food of grain origin makes up ⅔ of the diet of the average inhabitant of the kingdom.
Legumes such as garden beans, chickpeas, and lentils are widely used in cooking. Their protein richness allows them to replace more expensive meat products.
Islam predominates on the territory of the state, so it is almost impossible to find pork on the menu. Most often, lamb or chicken is found, less often lamb or pigeon meat. Fishing is developed in areas along the coastline.
Dairy products are represented by kefir, cheeses, salted butter.
For more than 2000 years, olive trees have been cultivated in the country, so olives, olives and oil from them are widely used in Moroccan cooking.
The most popular vegetables: bell peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, zucchini, cabbage varieties, fennel, potatoes, carrots, beets.
The climate allows Moroccans to grow and consume a wide variety of fruits. The most common of these are grapes, plums, peaches, pomegranates, lemons and the famous Moroccan tangerines. Dried fruits (raisins, dried apricots, prunes) are eaten for dessert or added to meat dishes.
Many spices are used in cooking. The most popular of them are: cumin, ginger, cumin, coriander, saffron. Cinnamon and sesame seeds are often used in baked goods.
Cooking methods in Morocco
We are talking primarily about such of them as:
- stewing: tajin, mruziya (types of stew);
- pastries: bastilla (pie);
- baking and subsequent grinding: zaalyuk (vegetable snack);
- cooking: harira, soup, ebaba (soups);
- cooking and subsequent grinding: hummus, bissara (legume snacks);
- frying: rgaif, begrir (types of pancakes);
- deep fat: shebaki (similar to “brushwood”);
- charcoal frying: mashbi (lamb cooked whole on a spit), shish-kebab (barbecue);
- drying: peppers, tomatoes, fruits;
- salting: lemons, olives.
Traditions of Morocco
A typical Moroccan breakfast includes:
- several types of grain products – bread, buns, flat cakes, pancakes;
- dairy products – butter, soft cheese.
Eggs and olives are often served. For sweets, jam, honey, pastries are provided.
The main meal in Morocco is after midday prayer. It starts with meze – small, spicy appetizers that whet your appetite. First courses – soups – are often thick and include meat, poultry, and legumes.
Tajin – a stew made from poultry, lamb or fish – is cooked in special earthenware dishes for a long time. Traditionally, it is complemented with salad, couscous, fresh herbs. Tajine can be served both for lunch and dinner. They eat a dish from the same dishes in which it was cooked, scooping up a tender stew with a flat cake.
Another traditional food is bread with a spread of legumes or vegetables: hummus, byssar, zaluk. Late dense dinners are not uncommon.
During the day, Moroccans drink sweet tea. It is consumed both in the morning and in the evening, and after meals. Guests are greeted with a cup of hot drink. For traditional Moroccan tea, green varieties, fresh mint and sugar are used.
Further variations are possible: from replacing green tea with black tea to adding milk, spices or citrus fruits. Be sure to pour the drink from a dish with a long spout from a great height. This is done to create a rich foam in the tea.
The popularity of the mint drink is due to the hot climate: due to menthol, tea has a refreshing effect. Coffee is drunk black and strong, adding cardamom to it. Milk drinks are much less common.
The main dishes of the kingdom
The basis of the food assortment in Morocco is made up of cereals, meat, poultry or fish. The hot climate allows you to diversify the recipes with local vegetables, fruits and spices.
Salads and snacks
Moroccans complement meat and fish dishes with vegetable salads. Popular ingredients are eggplants, tomatoes, potatoes, and cucumbers. Salads are spiced with olives, salted lemons, chermul sauce.
Vegetables are used both raw and boiled, baked or stewed. Salads are served both cold and hot, sprinkled with plenty of herbs and olive oil.
A popular snack is meze. It precedes the main meal or becomes an addition to alcoholic beverages. Small pieces of cheese, olives, vegetables, jerky are laid out on a large plate. It is customary to eat such a dish with your hands.
Historically, this wheat grits were made by hand, rolling larger balls from wet semolina and drying them. Now its production is mechanized.
To prepare couscous, a special device is used – a couscous, or borma. It consists of 2 parts: a vegetable broth is cooked in the lower part, and cereals are poured into the upper part. Thanks to the holes between the pieces, the golden crumbly garnish is cooked with fragrant steam coming from the lower tier.
Couscous is considered a festive family meal. It is prepared on Friday, the holy day of Muslims, and served on holidays. But there is no prohibition to eat it on any other day with tagine or kebab.
Homemade cakes and bread
Bread in Morocco is the head of everything. It is eaten anytime, anywhere, spread with butter, hummus or bissar. For the dessert option, jam or honey is used instead of unsweetened pastes.
There are countless types of baked goods. These are yeast cakes, sprinkled with crushed corn, and flaky, round or square. Sometimes they are made with a vegetable or meat filling.
Hobz is a traditional round wheat bread.
Begrir – pancakes that are fried on one side only to preserve a special delicate texture.
In addition to the festive cake, puff pastry is used to bake products of various shapes: snails, triangles, rolls.
Moroccan begrir crepes and biscuits.
Meat and fish dishes
Animal products are used in the first and second courses. Among the soups, for example, is the spicy chicken and herb broth – chorba. Harira includes meat at any time except during periods of fasting: then it is prepared only from legumes.
A puree soup is made of fish, the creamy consistency of which is achieved by adding flour and butter to the broth.
Stewing plays an important role among the cooking methods: meat and fish acquire a melting consistency during prolonged simmering in their own juice over low heat.
Another way of cooking is with charcoal barbecues. It is called shish kebab in Morocco and is a popular type of fast food. Pieces of pickled meat or poultry and vegetables are placed on skewers.
People eat a lot of sweets in Morocco. These are muffins, cookies, and delicate pancakes. Nuts are often part of baked goods: almonds, peanuts, walnuts. Coconut flakes, honey, dried fruits, sesame seeds and spices are also used.
For baking, in addition to yeast dough, puff pastry “cooking” is used – an analogue of European filo. Dates, dried apricots, prunes and other dried fruits can also be found on a plate with sweets.
The original dessert – sweet bread ebaba soup – is made from wheat rusks, which are combined with boiled raisins and jam or honey. Before serving, it is decorated with almond petals and dried fruits.
What to eat in Morocco
The distinctive and mouth-watering national cuisine will appeal to those who appreciate rich taste, original product combinations and delicate texture of food.
He’s tagine. This is the name of not only the dish, but also the special pottery in which it is cooked. It has a high cone-shaped lid that prevents moisture evaporation, which contributes to the uniform saturation of the ingredients with the aromas of each other and spices.
Cooking takes several hours, during which the stew is stewed in its own juice over low heat. Traditionally, it includes coarsely chopped meat, poultry or fish, a large amount of vegetables. Spice and sweetness add spices, honey and dried fruits to the tagine. It is served with couscous and fresh herbs.
Tajine is a dish with meat and spices, as well as the dishes in which it is cooked.
Hearty salad of fried eggplant and orange slices, dressed with tomato sauce.
Puréed chickpea appetizer with tahini (sesame paste), olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and paprika. They eat hummus, spread on wheat bread.
Chickpeas are soaked, boiled and chopped. Traditionally, they use a mortar and pestle for this, but modern housewives resort to the help of food processors or blenders. Hummus can be supplemented with toppings such as herbs, cheese, nuts.
Hummus is a delicious chickpea snack to your table.
Root vegetable cut into petals is fried in olive oil with the addition of spices, herbs and honey. Spicy beets can be used as a side dish or as part of a meze.
Kaab el gzal
Kaab-el-gzal is translated from Arabic as “horns of a gazelle”. This sugar-dusted bagel owes its name to its curved shape. Inside it has a filling of ground nuts.
Kaab-el-gzal – a gazelle horn bagel sprinkled with sugar.
Soup with chickpeas, lentils and juicy tomatoes – harir, or harira. It is traditionally brewed with a strong lamb broth, but both chicken and lamb can be used. Due to the bean base, the soup is so satisfying that it is sometimes cooked without meat.
This is a fish kebab – sea fish grilled on coals. Most often it is a flounder marinated in olive oil and lemon juice. It is served with fresh vegetables.
Samak kebab is a fish kebab.
Charcoal lamb is a popular holiday treat. In rural areas, it is traditionally planted whole on a spit; in cities, it is often cut into pieces.
Festive food in Morocco
The gala dinner is called “diffa” and includes 6 to 20 traditional dishes. Pastilla is a large pie with puff pastry.
Initially, the filling was made from pigeon meat, almonds and eggs. Today, it is most often based on chicken. An unexpected ingredient is powdered sugar. In some regions of Morocco, lemons are added to pastilla.
The feast is not complete without meshvi, lamb tajin and couscous.
Dishes for the Moroccan holiday.
Many Moroccan dishes can be prepared easily at home. For example, couscous is widely available and can be found in almost any major store. Even if you don’t have a traditional koskusnit, you can bring it to readiness in a double boiler or using boiling water.
Meat, poultry and vegetables are mixed in a separate container: they should be cut into medium pieces and stewed or fried in a pan. Do not forget to add spices, garlic, olives, fresh herbs: this will give the dish a Moroccan character. Put the finished couscous on a plate, and top with the filling.
It is not difficult to prepare a bissara.
The pea recipe follows:
- Soak it for several hours in cold water, and then boil it in broth until soft. It will take about an hour and a half.
- Add fried onions, crushed garlic, spices (ginger, paprika, cumin, pepper) to the peas.
There are recipes in which chunks of peas are left whole. According to others, the ingredients are ground until smooth. Depending on the thickness obtained, the bissara can be eaten as a soup or as a spread on bread.