Moroccan Gastronomy-An Exquisite Blend of Fruit with Meat

Moroccan cuisine offers a highly palatable and diverse dining experience with its excellent variety of sweet and savory dishes. The food is an ultimate combination of meat and fruit and the perfect use the varied ingredients from spices to dry fruits add more to its taste.

Moroccan cuisine owes its astounding diversity to the country’s interaction with other cultures such as Berber, Arab, Moorish, Mediterranean African and Average Eastern. The influence of these cultures along with the experiments by the chefs in royal kitchens of Rabat, Marrakesh, Fez, Meknes and Tetouan over the centuries has played a huge role in formulating the modern day Moroccan cuisine.

Moroccan cuisine revolves around locally produced ingredients and hence, it is difficult to capture the authentic flavors of the gastronomy in other parts of the world. This is why gourmets of this cuisine flock Morocco.

History of Moroccan Cuisine

History and traditions of a country are reflected in its gastronomy. The impact of various settlements on Moroccan food can easily be noticed in its flavors.

The history of Moroccan cuisine takes us back to the Berber kingdom of Mauretania. Berbers are considered to be the first known inhabitants of the country. They emphasized on the simplicity of the food and their cuisine was based on corn, barley, butter, honey, meat, game, goat cheese, and honey. The principal Berber foods in Moroccan cuisine are couscous, tajine, bouchiar, bourjeje, tahricht and lamb barbecue.

Over the time, traders and conquerors introduced new food customs to Morocco. Among them, Phoenicians, Carthaginians, and Romans influenced the food of Morocco. However, the influence of Arab on the native Moroccan culinary is remarkable. They introduced new breads and other grain based foods. The Arabs also brought with them spices, including saffron, cumin, cinnamon, ginger, and caraway. The sweet-and-sour culinary, which the Arabs had learnt from Persians, was also introduced in Moroccan dining. Moroccan cooking was also influenced by moors from Spain. The most recent contribution in Moroccan cooking was made by French and British.

Despite of the fact that Moroccan cuisine was highly influenced by Spanish and French for the ruled over the country in 19th and 20th centuries, it holds its roots deep in Arab and Berber style of cooking.

Impact of Geography & Climate on Moroccan Cuisine

Nestling in the northwestern part of Africa, Morocco has a large coastline stretching from Mediterranean Sea to North Atlantic Ocean. The northern cost of Morocco along the Mediterranean Sea is fertile and suitable to grow Mediterranean fruits and vegetables. Due to the extensive coastline, there is plentiful fish and seafood to satiate the appetite. The inland environment has always been suitable for raising sheep and goat.

Ingredients and Spices in Moroccan Cuisine

Moroccan Cuisine is a blend of fruits, vegetables and meats. Home-grown vegetables and fruits include potatoes, tomatoes, oranges and melons. Five native ingredients in Moroccan food are lemons, olives, almonds, dates, and figs.

Moroccan dishes spin around fish, seafood, meat (mutton and lamb, camel, beef, chicken, and rabbit). Spices are extensively used, the most commonly used include cinnamon (arfa), cumin(kamoun), turmeric (kharkoum), ginger (skinjbir), pepper (libzar) , paprika (tahmira), sesame seeds, coriander (qesbour), parsley (maadnous), saffron (zaafran beldi), anise seed, and mint.

Classification of Moroccan Food

In Morocco, midday meal is the main meal. At the outset, hot and cold salads are served followed by a tajine (slow-cooked stews braised at low temperatures). Then comes the turn of couscous garnished with meat and vegetables on its top. Generally, a Moroccan meal ends with a cup of mint tea. Bread is a significant accompaniment of every meal.

Salads

The Moroccan meal starts with salads. Salads here are eaten both raw and cooked. Raw salads are peeled and chopped garden-fresh vegetables, while Moroccan spreads are cooked salads.

A few famous salads

  • Chakchuka Taktouka- salad of grilled tomatoes and green pepper
  • Lhzina- salad of black olives, paprika or oranges
  • Zaalouk- cooked salad of eggplant and tomatoes

Main Dishes

There is a wide variety of main dishes in Moroccan cuisine.

Starters

  • Baghrir- pancakes or a type of fried puff pastry
  • Briouat – triangular or cylinder-shaped savory or sweet pastry covered with a paper-thin Moroccan dough
  • Ferakh Maamer- spring chicken stuffed with sweeten couscous
  • Milina- chicken/Eggs
  • Mqualli- chicken/Citron
  • Pastilla- pie made of chicken/almonds/seafood
  • Sardine- sardines with preserved lemon
  • Tanjia- red meat with preserved lemons
  • Morrocan Cigars- ground beef wrapped in dough

Main Course

Moroccan Couscous- semolina wheat dish with seven vegetables

  • Tajine- meat, vegetable
  • Kefta- meatballs
  • Kefta magawara- kefta tajine served with tomato, eggs
  • Mechoui M’Choui or Mashwi- roasted lamb
  • Mrouzia- sweet dish of lamb with raisins, almonds and honey

Breads

  • Harsha- fried buttery bread
  • Khobz- Moroccan Flatbread

Soups

  • Lentil soup
  • Harira- thick soup based on tomatoes

Kebabs

  • Brochetter Boulfaf- lamb kebab
  • Kwah- liver kebabs

Desserts

Morocco cuisine emphasizes on freshness of food. Seasonal fruits form an integral part of desserts served at the end of a meal. Besides fruits, following are the commonly served Moroccan desserts:

  • Kaab el ghzal (gazelle's horns)-pastry stuffed with almond paste
  • Halwa shebakia- cookies
  • Pastili- sweet pastry
  • Faqqas- macaroon made with semolina flour
  • Ghriyyaba-flavored biscuits
  • Sfenj- doughnut
  • Sellu- a sweet dish made of roasted flour
  • Baklava

Condiments and sauces

Condiments and sauces are common accompaniments of main dishes in Moroccan cuisine. They enhance the flavor of food.

  • Charmoula- a marinade usually made of a mixture of herbs, lemon juice, oil, cumin, pickled lemons, garlic, and salt.
  • Leems- pickled lemons

Drinks

The most renowned Moroccan drink is green tea with mint. Other Moroccan beverages are:

  • Half-Half- Moroccan coffee
  • Asseer Rumman- Orange Blossom Water
  • Asseer Limun- Orange juice
  • Beet Juice
  • Grape juice
  • Mint tea

Moroccan Special Utensils

Moroccan kitchens are equipped with common kitchen-wares. Since Moroccans eat meals with their right hands using the thumbs and two fingers, silverware is not customary in their kitchen.

Tajine: It is a terracotta pot with conical lid. The famous Moroccan dish, ‘Tajine’, owes its name to this utensil.

Couscousiere: It is a two part cooking pot. Vegetables and meat are cooked in bottom part, while couscous is steamed in the top part.

The beautifully carved Moroccan crockery and tea sets are visual delights.