What is the food made of in Morocco
Travellers of the past had it easier: it was enough to write tall tales to capture the public’s imagination. The most difficult thing was to make engravings and illustrations.
Today’s scribblers find it harder to surprise readers. Modern cameras are accurate and impartial, so for the sake of curiosities they have to get into such wildernesses, where even the locals do not go every day to eat.
Moroccan products are difficult to surprise, because they are familiar to literally the entire planet. That’s where you can’t buy onions, or rather a lot of onions? And the ubiquitous availability of onions is great, because onions are probably the main ingredient in Moroccan cuisine.
In fact, most Moroccan dishes can be prepared with this – the simplest – onion. But purple and white onions are also used extensively, just like the ones you can buy in any supermarket.
For example, there is no need to go to the market for tomatoes for Moroccan dishes. The most common, most inexpensive tomatoes, even greenhouse tomatoes, which are now available year-round, will do. But for using tomatoes in hot dishes, and especially in winter time, I still advise buying canned tomatoes in their own juice, without vinegar, salt and spices. First, these tomatoes go into the jar at the height of the season, when they are fully ripe and have reached the peak of their flavor and aroma. Second, even the best ones, bought at the market for the price of two kilos of meat, will become the same after ten minutes of heat treatment as those bought for a reasonable price in canned form.
Bell peppers and paprika are no different from the ones you can buy everywhere, from Irkutsk to Chicago.
You know, among peppers, sometimes you can come across a literal masterpiece – with a tantalizing smell, with a bright flavor. Of course, I’m not going to discourage you from using high quality products, but trust me – for authentic results, just like in Morocco, even the most ordinary peppers from the supermarket will do.
Pumpkin is a familiar but, alas, little appreciated product. Some readers even write that they don’t like pumpkin. And in vain!
Not only can pumpkin be almost the main ingredient of culinary masterpieces, but in the Moroccan cuisine it is simply indispensable.
So hurry up and find a common language with pumpkin!
In Morocco, the pumpkin is often sold in pieces – after all, few people can use twenty or thirty kilograms of this beauty in a reasonable time.
Carrots are used less often in Moroccan cooking, they are not used in traditional roasts as they are in many other cuisines, and perhaps that is why carrots in Morocco are sold mostly young, very juicy, and boiled quickly. But these carrots are plentiful everywhere, so there is no difficulty in choosing either.
Zucchini are the most common zucchini, just picked in time from the garden. In fact, we don’t take these zucchini to the agricultural fair, but to eat them! So what are the big ones for? These ones – the size of an ordinary cucumber – are just right!
Eggplant is hardly ever found in traditional Moroccan dishes with meat or chicken, but it is loved and prepared as an appetizer, either on its own or in combination with other vegetables and spices
Cauliflower has the same role. Although I personally do not see any obstacles for using this excellent product in the same tagines – it is perfectly cooked on steam!
Most Moroccan dishes are eaten with bread. I will talk about traditional bread below, in an article about Moroccan breakfasts, but even here the reader is not in for difficulties and surprises, because Moroccans love and willingly eat regular European bread, just like in France, Germany or in good bakeries in Russia.
Bread like the one pictured here is readily available in Morocco, and of the one that came into my camera lens, I can say that I have only eaten such wonderful bread in France. Bravo to the Moroccan bakers, for delicious bread is an important part of the meal.
And the tea? What is the famous Moroccan tea?
Here too, there is nothing unusual and no difficulty in selecting a brew. Ordinary Chinese green rolled tea, which is simply called “gunpowder” – I am sure that you can buy it if not in any supermarket, then certainly in any tea shop.
The secret is the special brewing method, which I will tell you about, and the sugar and mint.
They also cook in Morocco with the traditional European chicory and asparagus, but honestly, if any reader has never seen these products on sale, he still has a chance to cook the real Moroccan dishes. String peppers, most importantly, tell me, do you have any? If you have any, then don’t be wary – they don’t make too spicy food in Morocco! All food is quite comfortable and it’s hard to call it overly spicy.
I really liked artichoke stems as an ingredient for hot dishes, as well as the artichoke itself.
However, I have not seen artichoke stems on sale in Russia, but I think that beet stems, especially its sub-species chard, rhubarb, and even common celery, will play the same role in some dish
Ah, what they don’t have is salted lemons. Can you imagine that in Morocco they are sold in any shop, but not in Russia. But demand breeds supply, and within the framework of the book I will tell you about my way of pickling lemons, although not quite authentic (real salty Moroccan lemons require a special variety), but quite usable if you use the final product as an ingredient. common. Take the ones you have on hand in the fridge and you can’t go wrong. If you want to use lime instead of lemon, I’d be all for it – in some cases, lime is even more appropriate!
Many readers are probably of the opinion that any Oriental cuisine is primarily about spices.
No, in the case of Morocco it is not so! Yes, there is no cooking without spices, and practically every dish uses several spices at the same time, but it is not them that play the main role in Moroccan cuisine, but a special way of cooking, which results in extracting from the most common products such taste and smell, which no spices can beat!
But let me talk briefly at least about the main Moroccan spices.
Perhaps the most important thing is that Moroccan dishes are made with spices that grow in Morocco. No, of course, Madagascar vanilla and Indian cardamom and some other imported spices are also used, but their use is fragmentary and one can do just fine without them. Moreover, give me any two or three of the spices shown in the photo and I will make a dish that any Moroccan foodie will recognize as their own, native.
So, top row, left to right.
Raisins. The most common raisins! Sometimes light sultanas, sometimes dark sultanas, but they are almost always used wherever dishes need a sweet note. And keep in mind – yes, if I were to describe Moroccan cuisine in one word, it is… sweet!
That’s probably why cinnamon is next to raisins. More precisely, this spice is a relative of Ceylon cinnamon, the bark of the laurel family, which should more correctly be called cassia or Chinese cinnamon. But it is cassia which is widely marketed under the name of cinnamon because their smell and taste are very similar, and you still can’t reach the European abuse of this spice, because some lovers use cinnamon in coffee, and in pastries, and in meat dishes. So don’t worry, just keep in mind that any ingredient can serve as both a cure and a poison-the whole secret is in the sensible
I know that it is the sweetness of Moroccan dishes that will bother you much more. But the garlic, which is to the right of the cinnamon… is also sweet! Yes, yes, open the table of food composition and be surprised – garlic has more sugars and carbohydrates than many fruits. Its spiciness and peculiar smell are due primarily to aromatic substances that change their properties during heat treatment. And in the vast majority of Moroccan dishes garlic is cooked for a very long time, and all that remains of it is, again, sweetness and already a very subtle, pleasant, rather than intrusive and with a strong aftertaste, aroma.
In the next, second top row, from left to right, is ground nuts or ground almonds. Sometimes they are candied, which means they are coated with sugar during cooking.
Sesame – white, but not peeled and, as a rule, roasted in a dry pan, which gives it a special smell and a special flavor.
Olives – as throughout the Mediterranean, olive groves occupy a large part of the rocky land, where it is difficult to grow anything else. Olives serve as a source of oil, as a snack and even as an ingredient in many classic, traditional dishes.
Parsley is the most common and familiar ingredient, but the way it is used in Moroccan cuisine is surprising. It is fried finely chopped and stewed as a small bundle tied with a string, it is present in most dishes and is probably the spice you can’t do without. Remarkably, I have not even found traces of dried parsley in Moroccan kitchens!
In the third row from the top, starting from the left, is dried grated ginger. Of course, ginger grows in Morocco and fresh ginger is available almost all year round, but it is chopped ginger that is traditionally used in the kitchen. Fresh ginger is sliced or grated
I have only seen it in fish dishes.
Similarly, cinnamon is very often used in its ground form. And sometimes in one dish cinnamon is used both as a whole tube and ground at the same time.
Moroccan paprika is something special! I have never seen paprika of such quality! Deep red color, velvety texture, great taste and aroma, not burning at all – it is probably no accident that this spice becomes a decoration of most Moroccan dishes!
Miska chorra is probably the most mysterious ingredient of Moroccan cuisine. It is a wood resin that resembles both the look and the smell of incense, but it dissolves in water. Even the Moroccan cooks cannot explain exactly what it adds to the dishes; sometimes it is used in the most unexpected places, but I hasten to reassure you that most Moroccans get along very well without this spice. Moreover, you still need to look for it
in Morocco. It is not sold everywhere, but if you ask local gourmets, which may include cab drivers for example, they will definitely show you where you can buy it. It is used in very small quantities, so a hundred grams will suffice for authenticity lovers for several years! (take a photo separately!)
In the penultimate row on the top and second row on the bottom, on the left, in a tajine with a yellow lid, well known to fans of Central Asian, Indian and Iranian cuisine is zira. In Morocco, the zira is mostly used in ground form, but it is also sold whole, in seed form. It does not seem to be cultivated in Morocco, it is not a wild mountain zira as from the Pamirs or the Tien Shan, but it is excellent for its qualities. So buy good zira from Uzbeks or from proven producers and you can be sure that you will be able to recreate a real Moroccan taste!
The next spice is also very familiar to fans of the cuisine of the Silk Road region – turmeric. Sometimes turmeric is called ground saffron in the markets. Of course, this is a deception and profanation, because this powder is obtained by grinding dried turmeric roots. (take a picture of turmeric) No dish that contains onions is without turmeric, and there are infinitely few dishes in Morocco without onions!
Finally, in the last row is the truly royal spice of saffron. The Hindustan Peninsula, Iran, Azerbaijan, Italy, Spain and finally Morocco are blessed countries where saffron is grown and consumed. Yes, saffron is very expensive, but we use it very little, so the cost of saffron in dishes is not more expensive than black pepper.
The Moroccan black pepper, not in the sense of “pepper used in Morocco” but the one grown and used in Morocco, has some peculiarities and differences from the Indian pepper which we are accustomed to. In its taste and aroma there are noticeable notes of white pepper – that is, the same seeds that are used to make black pepper, only matured and stripped of their shell. I think that if you take three parts of ordinary black pepper and one part of white pepper, you get a mixture very similar to the Moroccan black pepper.
Walnuts are used both in pieces and in ground form about as often as in Transcaucasia.
The almonds in Morocco are very tasty and of high quality; I have not seen any of these in Central Asia or even in Iran, the leading producer of almonds. I really liked the kind shown in the photo, already peeled and blanched, without the skin. These almonds are usually roasted in ovens until they change color and have a distinctive, attractive flavor. The simpler almonds, the common almonds, which are also found in our stores, are used whole, ground and in the form of almond dough, for which they are ground with a powerful blender in the presence of water, powdered sugar, and sometimes with the addition of rose water or water from the orange color – fleur d’orange. This essentially marzipan mixture is used as a filling for confectionery.
Rose water and orange blossom infusion are used not only for confectionery, but also in meat and chicken dishes. (take it off for sure!)
Remarkably, Moroccan cuisine makes almost no use of animal fats for hot dishes, unless you count the fat found in the meat and bone marrow itself. The only exception is fermented szmen butter. It is possible that one day you will find such butter in specialized stores, but for now I hasten to assure you that you can do without it. In a pinch you can replace it with an ordinary butter and a spoonful of aromatic French Camembert or Brie cheeses will make up for the lack of a peculiar smell, for which the
Moroccans appreciate it.
But for most dishes one can do without this specialty, because the main cooking oil of Moroccans is the same as almost the majority of the world population – the most common sunflower oil, but of very good quality and, in smaller quantities, olive oil. Very often two types of oil are mixed for cooking, where olive oil is added very little, only for taste and smell. I think that if you cook with inexpensive olive oil, which is sold in Russia, there is no point in mixing it, because the producers have already done it for you. Sometimes argan oil is used for cooking, which is attributed miraculous pharmacological properties, but in reality it is just another very good, delicious and flavorful oil. So why not add a new note to your diet for a change? (skim all three types of oil)
In the Moroccan diet, pulses and cereals made of wheat play an important role, as well as couscous, which we will talk about in detail below. But very little rice is consumed in Morocco, and its use is often limited to combinations with stuffing or in some soups. There are no dishes similar to pilaf, paella or risotto, where the main ingredient is rice, in the modern Moroccan cuisine.
If we talk about meat and poultry, it is mainly lamb and the most common chicken, a little less common beef and various species of birds, ranging from quail.
Fish is prepared mainly sea, and sea creatures and crustaceans are prepared in the same way as elsewhere, that is, very simply.
Morocco has wonderful conditions for agriculture. The country can be divided into several climatic zones. These factors, given the fact that the country is surrounded by the sea and the ocean to the North and West, allow Moroccans to eat only their own products. Of course, imported products are also on the shelves, but Moroccans prefer their own, local products.