The Key Ingredients of Moroccan Cuisine

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Before all is said and done let me set one thing straight:  although Morocco is a Muslim land and as such it shares a great deal of its culinary culture with its fellow Islamic countries, Moroccan cuisine is just as different from the so-called “Arabic Cuisine”. There are multiple reasons for this: the key one being the diversity of Morocco’s population which consists not only of Arabs but of different so-called Berber and Bedouin tribes. These nations all have their own cooking and eating habits and this altogether creates a very unique blend which is today’s Moroccan cuisine.

Let me set another thing straight: I am not here to enlist all the food you can get in Morocco. It would be a very long and useless list. My aim is more of an introduction to the key ingredients, to let you guys know what people do eat in general and some suggestions on what to try most definitely. Last but not least, I would also like to say a few words on the effects of Islam on the eating habits and the special food of Ramadan.

The key ingredients:

  • The olive oil:  Morocco is one of the biggest users and exporters of quality olive oil and this also shows on its cuisine. Olive oil is literally used for every single meal and as an extra people also eat it raw simply with bread. The olive oil I’ve tasted in Morocco has an especially rich taste so it’s definitely a must-try ( or must –buy)
  • Olives in every color:  olives are key to almost every meal, let that be breakfast, or cooked in a meal
  • The bread: Khobbz and M’smen. These are the two “breads” which rule the Moroccan cuisine. There is no pita or pilaf over here so do not even expect to meet those. But don’t worry, the Moroccan breads really do make up for their absence. To give you a brief description:

M’smen is the primary breakfast bread women make at home because it’s quick and easy: this is a simply pasty done with flour, semolina, olive or canola oil then use lots of oil to bake them.  One can eat these with anything sweet or salty and it makes for a very copious breakfast. Click here for its recipe-

Khobbz: is the general bread which people go to buy at local bakeries and it’s basically used for every, and for any meal. The taste is similar to Western semolina bread but you can well feel the special aroma of Moroccan olive oil on it. It’s a great, healthy choice and one more thing: it is just perfect to use as a “spoon” when eating any sort of food. Khobbs generally has a circular shape and it can come in any and every size. Click here for its recipe.

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Dairy products:

Yogurt: every yogurt is collectively called as “Danone” all across Morocco and the brand is extremely popular to buy for breakfast, but the locally made yogurt which you can buy in small breakfast places coming in proper glasses is much tastier. Definitely give it a try if you are fan..

Cheese: cheese is not common in Morocco, but one of their favorites is the triangular creme- cheese coming from the French brand “ La Vache qui Rit ( The Laughing Cow” ) which is a very strong brand commonly bought all across Europe. The creme cheese is especially good on Khobbz bread with a bit of a butter and makes a perfect breakfast.

The meat:

Lamb: Morocco, although an Islamic country, it is not a Middle Eastern country, which means lots of meat which is all common in the Middle East is less common over here. The lamb which is the overall used primary meat in the Middle Eastern Arab countries is far from being common in Morocco: it’s mostly only used for special celebrations and special occasions, such as for the biggest celebration the Eid or for weddings (on both occasions lambs are sacrificed traditionally most commonly by the head of the family).

Chicken: The most commonly used meat in Morocco is in fact the chicken. It is used for preparing dozens of different meals, it’s a white meat which makes it healthier to consume especially in the summer and it’s also the most economical meat to buy. Most Moroccan families therefore use chicken for about 80% of the meaty meals they cook.

Fish: fish is not as common in the areas which have no direct connection to the sea so this varies, depending on the exact area. Sea fish is commonly eaten grilled or fried too.

Vegetables: Unlike in the West, people almost never consume vegetables raw in Morocco. The common vegetables include carrot, potato, turnip, tomatoes and peppers and they are always well cooked, being part of a meal. Salads for main courses are also not common in Morocco at least not those which contain raw vegetables.

Dates:  Date palms are quite common also in Morocco and you can get some of the best quality dates in the souks or marketplaces. According to Islam, it is extremely beneficiary for the soul to eat 7 pieces of dates daily, therefore they are some of the most commonly eaten fruits in a household.

Desserts:  Unlike in the Middle East desserts are absolutely not common in Morocco and you can mostly see them being served for special celebrations or other special occasions such as receiving special guests. Cakes don’t exist in Morocco: they have various sweet cookies such as ghribyba or macaron (see recipe here) or shebakia (click here for recipe) a rather sweet and tasty specialty made with honey which is also the Nr1 sweet to eat during Ramadan.

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Ghribya is a very common sweet upon receiving guests or for special occasions and it’s perfect to consume with mint tea

 

Rice or Potatoes?

Rice is most commonly used as a soft-meal in form of a milkier – rice pudding served with cinnamon that is served as a single – course soup.

Potatoes are commonly used in form of pommes frites or cooked as part of the main course too.

 

To be continued…

 

 

 

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