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Wednesday, 19 February 2014 12:00 AM

Food on a Morocco Holiday - Ingredients & Meals

In the last article I wrote on the background to Moroccan cuisine which has led to the variety of food that you may encounter on your Morocco holiday, which I will explore in the next article.

For those of you interested in exploring this further, try a cookery lesson during your holiday.

Ingredients of Moroccan Cuisine

Morocco is blessed with a temperate climate – a generally sunny and warm climate with a short and mild winter (by European standards) – although water is becoming more of a precious resource, especially in the more southern regions.

Consequently Morocco, unlike most other countries in Africa, produces that vast majority of all its basic foods – especially meats (lamb and poultry) and fish, vegetables, fruits and spices; however, meat is a resource intensive product and so is relatively expensive, and certain spices and herbs are imported.

Most abundant ingredients are vegetables (sweet and hot peppers, tomatoes and potatoes) and fruits (oranges, lemons, melons) and dried/ preserved fruit and veg (olives, lemons, figs, dates, apricots, raisins, almonds, pine nuts).

With huge stretches of Atlantic and Mediterranean coastlines fish and seafood is plentiful; however, chilled storage facilities are generally poor and the general advice is to have such foods when eating near the coast and to try to ensure that the catch was recent. Meat is common in most restaurants and is mainly lamb, chicken or pigeon, with beef a scarce commodity.

Spices and herbs are used in most dishes with saffron (zaafrane beldi)  being the most prized and still grown extensively in the Taliouine region. A wander through any souk will quickly show you the huge volumes of the common spices and herbs on sale (the classic photo) and used including cumin (kamoun), ginger (skingbir), cinnamon (karfa), turmeric (kharkoum), paprika (tahmira), pepper (libzar), mint (liqama), coriander (kasbour), parsley (maadnous), which come from a variety of sources but are mainly imported.

Ras el hanout (ras l’hanoot, “head of the shop”) is the general name for a mix of spices, typically between 20 and 40 spices mixed/ concocted by the local shop owner, and the exact mix being particular to each shop.

Typical Moroccan Meals

The main meal of the day in Morocco is lunch, except during Ramadan or for weddings when the evening meal predominates.

Breakfast

A traditional Moroccan breakfast is a simple affair consisting of bread and olive oil and tea.

However, holiday makers in Morocco will typically be served a continental style breakfast - often including fruit juice, tea or coffee, bread and pancakes (perhaps with preserves), yougurt and sometimes eggs or, if you are very lucky, a "Berber" tajine (spiced egg and tomato - one of my favourite dishes).

Lunch

Lunch is traditionally the main meal of the day in Morocco, with the family coming home (from work or school) to sit together around a low table in the salon. Once seated a female member of the family would traditionally attend to each family member with a kettle of warm water, soap, basin and towel to allow them to wash before the food is served.

After the head of the table says grace (“bismillah” – in the name of God), the food is served – tagine or couscous and hot or cold salads placed together in the centre of the table for all to eat from scooped up using pieces of bread, bread being used with no other cutlery or utensils.

Finally fruit and sweet mint tea are served.

Dinner

Dinner would typically be a light meal – either a soup or left-overs from lunch – except for at weddings or during Ramadan when the main meal is at dinner time.

During those formal/ celebration meals a sequence of dishes may be served, starting with a selection of mezze - hot and cold salads and olives - followed by a tagine and then a meat dish and finally couscous with vegetables before fruit and mint tea. Again all food is eaten using pieces of flat bread to take food.