Morocco is a land where Mediterranean and tropical fruits and vegetables are found in abundance. Sheep, cattle, poultry and seafood are available in plenty and are used as a base for cooking most of the popular dishes. Moroccan food is unique in that it does not have a singular taste, as it is influenced by interaction with several nations and therefore several different types of cuisine.
You will be able to identify influences of Berber, Moorish, Mediterranean, Arab, and African cuisine in Moroccan food. However, although one may point out that it has a Middle Eastern flavor, Moroccan cuisine is indeed distinct in its taste and is a treat to the eye with its rich colors. Colorful vegetables such as green beans and peppers lend Moroccan food its colorful characteristic.
Unique flavor of Moroccan food
Moroccans use certain ingredients extensively in many dishes giving them a distinct taste. Preserved lemons that are soaked in salt and juices add a tangy flavor to Moroccan food. They are used in sauces, tagines and salads. Tagines are the traditional Moroccan stews and are cooked in an earthen pot that lets out steam slowly. Tagines such as chicken with olives and preserved lemons are a favorite, as are Moroccan fish tagines, lamb tagines, beef tagines and tagines of fava beans and artichokes.
Lemon, unrefined olive oil and dried fruits are used for flavoring foods. Moroccans use plenty of spices and herbs such as cinnamon, turmeric, cumin, ginger, pepper, paprika, sesame seed, coriander and parsley in their cooking. Ras el-hanout is a mixture of about ten to hundred spices and it is used to add flavor to the food.
Moroccan food pattern
Moroccans include bread in almost every meal and the midday meal is considered most important. Meat is essentially the main dish while the bread is used as a platter. Chicken and lamb are usually consumed; however beef is the most common form of red meat eaten. Couscous, Tajine, Pastille and Harira are popular dishes. During the month of Ramadan, the midday meal is no longer considered important and the Harira soup which is considered as a meal is served with dates.
Meals are usually ended with a cup of sweet mint - green tea and fruits, instead of the customary sweets in other cuisine. Sweets if included are eaten in between the meal. Honey cakes and gazelle's horns made with almond paste are famous. Salads are made with raw or boiled vegetables and may be served hot or cold.
For snacks, the Moroccans like to have Bocadillo, a sandwich filled with salads and meat such as tuna fish or an omelet. There are dairy products and juices also available as snacking options. Rich spices and intense tastes are integral to Moroccan cuisine, and the food is often slow cooked and simmered. Orange flower water, honey and rosewater are commonly used to prepare cakes and sweets.
The Couscous dish is the national food of the Moroccans and is popular all over the world, especially in North America. Couscous can be made with the following ingredients. Couscous itself is made from semolina and formed into small balls by hand. To get the complete Moroccan experience, eat with your hand as they do! You will find that although the Moroccan food appears rich and savory, the ingredients are simple and used in everyday cooking and therefore are easily available.
Couscous, carrots, celery, mushroom -1 cup each
Chickpeas, Tomato Sauce - 1 can each
1 ½ pounds - tofu in cubes
Raisins, walnuts -- ½ cup each
Onion - 1 chopped
Curry Powder - 2 teaspoons
Paprika, salt - 1 teaspoon each
Cayenne - ¼ tea spoon
Water - 1 ½ cups
Fry the tofu, onion, carrots, celery, mushrooms and nuts till they turn brown. Add the remaining ingredients except couscous. Wait for them to boil and cover with a lid. Set the flame to simmer for 40 minutes. Add the couscous, stir and cover it, letting it simmer for 3 to 5 minutes. Lay out the vegetables over the couscous. Your dish is ready to serve.
You might want a Moroccan drink to go with your Moroccan meal. Almond milkshakes or smoothies are famous in Morocco especially during Ramadan time. You will need almonds, cold milk, ice cubes, sugar and orange flower water.
Peel half a cup of almonds, blanch and blend them in a blender till you have a fine mixture. Add 1 ½ cups of cold milk, 3 or 4 tablespoons of sugar and a dash of orange flower water and blend all the ingredients together again in high speed. While in the process of blending you can also add 4 to 5 ice cubes to the mixture. You will have two servings. Your drink is ready to be served, and is best served chilled.
Moroccan cooking tips
As mentioned earlier, the distinctness of Moroccan cuisine is not derived from its ingredients but from the method of cooking. To prepare a Moroccan meal you need to set aside a good portion of your time as the method of cooking is slow.
Stewing, steaming and deep frying are some of the most common cooking methods. For steaming, a specially shaped vessel is used which does not permit the steam to escape, keeping the food moist. These are known as wet cooking methods. Steaming helps retain the nutrients present in the ingredients.
Moroccan cuisine combines a variety of traditional and modern methods and techniques.