Kitchen Connection - Kitchen Connection Goes to: Morocco!
Kasbah of the Udayas in Rabat, Morocco
Official Name: King of Morocco
Official Language(s): Arabic, French, Spanish, Berber dialect
National Dish(es): Couscous
Close up of traditional Moroccan tea
Fun Facts: Dubbed Moroccan, or Berber, “whiskey,” tea has become the national drink of Morocco. It was introduced to Morocco in 1854 when blockaded British merchants uploaded large quantities of tea at major Moroccan ports, Thé à la Menthe (Green Mint Tea) is Chinese green tea brewed with a handful of mint leaves and liberally loaded up with sugar.
Moroccan Tagine with lamb, pumpkin and red pepper
*Largest City (ies): Casablanca
*Culinary travel destination(s): Marrakech, Casablanca, Fes, Essaouira
*Primary Language(s): Arabic, French, Spanish, Berber dialect
*%Urban to Rural: 62.5%
*Primary Agricultural Exports: citrus fruits,vegetables, fish
*Food expenditure for one week: $284.06
*Caloric intake available daily per person: 3,230 kcal
*Alcohol consumption per capita: 0.60 liters
*Obese population: 26.1%
*Big Mac Price: $5.46
*Meat consumption per person per year: 30.1 liters
*Prevalence of Hunger: 10.2
*Culture: Moroccan People
The Moroccans are the inhabitants and the citizens of Morocco, Most of them have Berber or Arab origin. there are 38M Moroccan in the World about 33M are living in Morocco and about 2.5M are living in France and Spain.
Moroccan Values and Attitudes
Moroccan people follow the principles of Islam, Moroccan families has a strong foundation in unity, whatever it is the nuclear family as well as the extended one. Children's are expected to take care of their parents when the grow old, therefore there are very few elderly homes compared to western culture.
Our traditional dress here is the Djellaba, although it is not what youngsters wear nowadays. There is also the Caftan which we might wear at weddings too ! Usually these are worn with 'Balgha' (flat slippers made from leather) but at weddings women wear Caftans or Takchitas with heels.
The bride in Moroccan Amaria
Moroccan weddings are out of this world ! A groom is required to give his bride special gifts before the big day such as sugar or henna as well as other gifts chosen by him. Two days before the wedding, custom requires the bride to go to the traditional Moroccan Hamam (sauna) with her relatives.. as it is considered an act of purification where they sing traditional songs together. The next ceremony that takes place uses the famous Moroccan Henna.. As they get a professional to draw meaningful symbols on the hands and the feet of the bride. Ceremonies differ in different cities, but what never changes is the fact that the Moroccan wedding lasts at least four to eight hours, and they use Negafa (a women who offers make-up services) to take care of the bride and how she looks. They also use an Amariya (traditional ornamental chair) for both the bride and the groom. As they lift them up in what seems to be a sort of chair.
All of these are considered traditions : Whether it is the weddings or the music which we call « Dekka El Merrakchya » or the Henna that you will find offered to you everywhere on the streets or even pouring the tea making « Rezza » .. Moroccan traditions are certainly one of a kind ! And these are the traditions which truely make the Moroccan culture.
*National Dish (es): Couscous
*National Drink(s): Mint Tea
*Major Holidays/Special Holiday Foods: Harira – a thick traditional Berber soup
Traditionally the food that breaks the fast during Ramadan, this is a thick and spicy soup often accompanied by dates, bread or pancakes and milk. It is a tomato-based soup containing some lamb, lentils, chick peas and small noodles. After a good bowl of this you won’t be left hungry.
Salads – hot or cold
Salads in Morocco can be raw or cooked. Raw salads have basic ingredients of tomatoes, cucumber, green pepper and onions – for those on holiday in Morocco, raw salads are a possible risk to the stomach so go carefully. Cooked salads contain a variety of vegetables, typically carrots and/ or potatoes and/ or courgettes drizzled with olive oil and a pinch of cumin.
Tagine – the ubiquitous Berber stew
A tagine (tajine) is a conical domed heavy clay pot used for slow cooking stews, traditionally on warm coals, to which the term also applies. The shape of the lid is such that steam rises and condenses continuously during the long cooking process, so that the stew is rich, aromatic, tender and moist when done.
Almost any foods can be placed in the flatter base – any meats, fish, vegetables, spices and even fruits or nuts – but the classic varieties include lamb with almonds and dates/ raisins (mrouzia), chicken with olives and preserved lemons (mquali or emshmel), meatballs (kefta) with tomatoes and eggs, and the vegetarian variety of tomatoes and eggs, all of which will have a variety of seasoning and spices (cumin, paprika, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, pepper, ras el hanout – the locally mixed spices) and vary in style regionally.
Once cooked the whole of the tagine is taken to the table and the lid taken off (the lid has a knob on top for holding) to reveal the intense aroma and rich food within.
Merchoui – slow cooked lamb on the bone
Traditionally merchoui is a whole spit-roasted lamb slow cooked over an open fire or coals, but chunks of leg or shoulder are normally cooked and have largely the same result – tender meat that can easily be pulled from the bone and is succulent and rick in flavour.
Before cooking excess fat is removed, the lamb is scored with a knife and oil, garlic, cumin, turmeric and salt and pepper (saffron can also be used if feeling extravagant) are rubbed into the meat. The meat is then cooked on a low meat for a long time (up to 9 hours for a whole lamb) with hourly basting until it can be browned at a higher temperature near the end.
Couscous – fine semolina served topped with vegetables
Forget the couscous you buy in a UK supermarket, then you poor on boiling water and leave for 5 minutes – Moroccan couscous is an art form and once you eaten it you will swear that you will do it that way at home, then you'll realise how much effort Moroccans put into its preparation and give up.
Couscous (seksu or sikuk) is of Berber origin so has been a part of cuisine in Morocco for hundreds of years. The grains of semolina are thoroughly separated by hand with water and steam, which can take up to an hour. This is so time consuming that Moroccan families now often use the instant variety for everyday use, saving the traditional method for special occasions (including Friday prayers). The couscous is then topped with a variety of steamed vegetables and eaten by rolling balls of couscous in a hand into bite-sized portions.
Pastilla – spiced crisp pasty filled with meat
Pastilla (pronounced “basteeya”) is a dish for a special occasion (a started dish at a wedding) as it takes a lot of preparation. It is a Moorish dish that traditionally used pigeon as the base ingredient, but nowadays typically is chicken (or occasionally fish).
Several layers of very thin and flaky pastry (thinner than filo pastry) sheets are filled with a cooled pre-cooked mixture of shredded meat, onions and spices. The whole flat round “pie” is cooked in a flat pan and topped with toasted ground almonds, cinnamon and sugar.
Meshwi – barbeque meat
Barbequing (meshwi) meat is a tradition across many Arab countries and in Morocco you will see it on the street and sometimes in restaurants. Meat (chunks or minced with added herbs and spices) is put on a skewer and cooked over flames or coals, and can form a simple, tasty and cheap lunchtime snack as you explore a souk.
Although a simple dish found daily in every town, barbequing is also used as the main element of formal ceremonies (weddings or honouring special guests) - where a family may slaughter and roast one of its herd of sheep or goats as part of the evening celebration, with singing and dancing around or near the barbeque pit.
*Fun foodie facts: The most famous of Moroccan dishes is couscous, other popular dishes include pastilla, tajine, and harira. Chicken is the most widely eaten meat.
*Main religions: Islam
*Indigenous communities and their dishes: Saharawis, est 90,000(various sources); Jews 4,000 (0.01%), US State Department International Religious Freedom Report, Shia (unknown)
Morocco has an abundance of wildlife including birds, mammals, livestock and aquatic creatures, along with the native ones, including striped hyenas. Striped hyenas are believed to be a species of hyena native to North and East Africa, are considered one of the intelligent species of hyena to roam on earth.
Genet is a slender cat-like animal, recognized by a crest of long black hairs and a pale yellowish-brown fur, and with a white-tipped tail. It’s a nocturnal species native to Morocco and a few young genets are active during the day, and they usually live alone. They normally feed on small birds and mammals.
3. Elephant Shrew
The elephant shrews (commonly known as sengi) are the mammal species native to Africa, particularly Morocco, recognized by their flexible elongated snout, which resembles the trunk of an elephant and similarity to the actual shrews. They take refuge in Mediterranean and semi-desert areas, including high rise mountains.
4. Barbary Macaque
It’s a unique species known for their vestigial tail. Found in the Atlas Mountains of Algeria and Morocco, this is the only primate found in Europe and the only species of the Genus “Macaca” found outside of Asia. They are considered one of the Old World monkeys, which can survive cold snowy winters to hot blistering summers.
5. Crested Porcupine
The North African crested porcupine is one of the largest species of porcupine in the world and one of the world’s largest rodents. This species is widely spread in Africa and Italy, with only two species found outside of Asia. They usually live on the grounds and can inhabit deserts, forests, and grasslands.
6. Horned Viper
Found in the arid Saharan regions of Morocco, the horned viper is one of the most dangerous yet striking snakes you’d encounter on your camel trekking tour through the Sahara. They can be easily identified by their scary pair of horns above the eyes, and can easily camouflage within the sand, thanks to its sandy brown structure. They are extremely poisonous and are capable of injecting large amounts of venom into their prey.
7. Golden Jackal
The golden jackal is a new species of wolf discovered in Africa, closely related to gray wolves, however, golden jackals and gray wolves look dramatically different. They live in open savannas, deserts, and arid grasslands, while the side-striped jackals are found in marshes, mountains and bushlands.
8. White-Eyed Gulls
White-eyed gulls can also be spotted along the modest beaches in Morocco, though in decreasing numbers. This is one of the world’s rarest species of gulls, which is deemed Near Threatened by the IUCN. One distinctive feature of white-eyed gull is its long slender bill and yellow legs, while the eye is not exactly white; it takes its name from the popular white eye crescents.
9. Berber Toad
Near water, the Berber toad strikes a nightly chorus along with Green and Mauritanian toads, that can only be visible at dusk or dawn, or sometimes spotted in the headlights of your car. Native to Northern Africa, the Berber toads live in subtropical or tropical dry forests in their natural habitats, or can be found in freshwater marshes.
10. Mediterranean Monk Seal
One of the most endangered marine mammals in the world with only a few hundred currently surviving; the Mediterranean Monk Seal is believed to be the world’s rarest pinniped species found in the isolated populations in the Mediterranean. Very little is known about this seal’s reproduction, and they feed on a variety of fish and mollusks, primarily squid and eels.
*SDGs that are especially prevalent in the respective country: 1,2, 6,13,17
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