Leaving the pasta and noodles in Bee-bee, I was invited to join a Moroccan chef in his restaurant kitchen to learn how to prepare two classic Moroccan dishes; Tagine and Couscous. ‘Tagine’ is actually the name of the conical-shaped earthenware dish that the meal is served in, similar to a ‘Casserole’. The fish tagine is made with red mullet, potatoes and olives with a tomato based sauce prepared with cumin, parsley, paprika, garlic and pepper. The lamb tagine has a ‘sweet’ sauce created with ginger, cinnamon and saffron and presented with caramelised prunes topped with toasted sesame seeds. Nothing is measured exactly; olive oil is glugged and water splashed into the pan with rough handfuls and pinches of spices thrown in; the importance is to taste throughout the cooking and adjust the ingredients to your liking. There is no ‘leave to simmer for an hour’ while you put your feet up; constant stirring, adding water, tasting and seasoning is only interrupted by a quick mint tea break.
Forget your Ainsley Harriet ‘add boiling water and stand for 4 minutes couscous’; the authentic version takes around 2 and a half hours. The couscous is steamed slowly in the top part of a ‘Kaskas’ pan as the vegetables cook underneath. The traditional couscous which families share on Fridays contains 7 vegetables and is beautifully presented in a circular, symmetrical pattern on a huge shared plate with chickpeas in tomato sauce sprinkled over and topped with a mouth-watering caramelised onion and sultana ‘T’fia’.
Drive through any village at meal times and Tagine stalls flank the street, the decorated terracotta pots lined up on charcoal grills along the counter. Those with a tomato placed on the top have been ‘reserved’ earlier in the day. Couscous is eaten in the tiniest hole-in-the-wall cafes to the swankiest 5 star restaurants across the whole of Morocco. A huge “Shukran” to executive chef Younes and his chef Sommaya from Hapimag Marrakech for their expertise and teaching in Moroccan cuisine. To have a go at Moroccan cooking we have attached some home made PDF recipes below. Bon Appetit!