Moroccan food, a madness of flavors

Moroccan food

Moroccan food is delicious. And it has nothing to envy the cuisines of the rest of the Mediterranean countries, both in Africa and in Europe. In fact, if you analyze the perspective of the main Moroccan dishes. It is easy to find great analogies with many recipes of typical Spanish food.

   The main difference, apart from the obligatory absence of pork products, lies in the wise use that Moroccan cooks make of spices and all kinds of seasonings.

   Below are some of the most representative dishes of Moroccan gastronomy, although there are many more worth discovering. If you are lucky, in one of the hospitable homes of that country.

Tajines: the great stew of Morocco

Vegetables that are cooked with meat (chicken, lamb, or beef) or fish, over low heat and for hours (stewed), in a clay pot whose lid is an elongated cone. These are the Moroccan tajines (or tajines).

   A dish shared with the rest of the Maghreb countries and, undoubtedly, a good summary of the essence of typical Moroccan food.

   The vessel in which it is cooked is a display of culinary technique, as it requires very little caloric energy, prevents the steam from escaping from the cooking itself (and the essence of the food itself), and, in addition, once removed from the fire, it maintains the temperature of the food for a long time.

 Moroccan food

The khubz bread, which is eaten on its own

   The main characteristic of Moroccan bread (or khubz bread) is that it is flat and baked completely against the oven walls. This results in a product with considerably less crumb than “European-style” bread and is absolutely succulent.

   It accompanies all kinds of meals, but the reality is that it is so delicious that many eat this typical Moroccan food without any accompaniment, as if it were a bun.

The omnipresence of couscous

 If the tajine is fundamental to knowing and understanding the basis of typical Moroccan food, couscous is no less so. As that one, it is a stew based on meat and vegetables but, in this case, the base is the wheat semolina. In addition, it is cooked with abundant chickpeas.

   As important as the dish itself is the cooking broth, with which the couscous is then watered once at the table. This broth can also be the base of the Harira. That is to say the soup, by definition, of Moroccan cuisine.

 Moroccan food
Couscous with vegetables

The Harira, the star of the Moroccan soups

In essence, the Harira is a soup made with the cooking broth of vegetables, various types of meat, and legumes. To make it one of the most popular dishes of Moroccan cuisine, tomato and aromatic herbs, such as mint or coriander, are added. And, in addition, a not-so-secret component is added, the harissa, which we will explain later.

   Because of its high nutritional value, Harira is considered the ideal dish for breaking the fast after Ramadan. Although the truth is that Moroccan restaurants serve it at any time of the year.

 Moroccan food

The méchoui or mechui

   The very name méchoui, which means to roast in the fire, already refers to this way of preparing lamb or sheep. The usual thing is to insert the animal in a bar and roast it slowly over the embers. It is a very common dish in family celebrations throughout the Maghreb.

The international chickpea hummus

Hummus does not need many presentations, as it has become not only one of the most representative dishes of typical Moroccan food but also of Mediterranean and international cuisine.

   This cold puree of mashed chickpeas with olive oil, lemon juice, and sesame seeds has variations depending on the region of the country where it is made. Among them, the most delicious is the one that replaces the chickpeas with roasted eggplant. It is then known as baba Ganuch.

 Moroccan food
Traditional chickpea hummus

Maakouda, to eat in the street

The maakouda is one of the most recurrent recipes of the typical food of Morocco. In the style of the Spanish potato omelet, with which it shares ingredients and, somehow, also the way of preparation.

   The difference is that Moroccan “tortillas” are smaller in size, usually eaten in sandwiches of khubz bread and accompanied with slices of tomato, onion, and olives. They are sold in many street stalls.

Moroccan pastilla, sweet, salty, and aromatic

   If there are preparations that surprise within the recipe book of typical Moroccan food, the pastilla (or pastela) is undoubtedly the most surprising. It is a pastry of puff pastry or filo dough, usually filled with shredded poultry meat (the pigeon is a real delicacy), raisins, nuts, pistachios, and other dried fruits.

   It is baked and decorated with powdered sugar and cinnamon. The most curious thing is that, in spite of its forcefulness, it is considered a starter. No less surprising are the sensations aroused by the combination of flavors (sweet and salty) and aromas of this recipe.

Bissara, another version of hummus

   Bissara is a puree that, like hummus, is also consumed cold. Unlike hummus, it is based on dried beans and peas which, after being cooked and mashed, are seasoned with olive oil, sweet and spicy paprika, cumin, and salt.

Kefta, authentic “make-ahead” cooking

Kefta is one of the best examples of the fact that in Morocco food is not usually wasted. This dish consists of minced meat (usually left over from other preparations), which is seasoned with paprika, ginger, garlic, parsley, coriander, and onion…

   The resulting dough is used to make elongated meatballs, which are inserted into a wooden stick and cooked over hot coals, in the style of the popular “pinches morunos”.

 Moroccan food

Moroccan sweets

   The chapter on sweets is fundamental in the typical food of Morocco. In fact, it is one of the most abundant products in the markets and souks of that country.

   The most popular ones, very similar to those of the rest of the Arab world, are made with filo pastry, pistachios, almonds, other nuts, and dates and are dipped in lots of honey.

The world of spices in Morocco

As we have already mentioned, seasonings are fundamental to the typical food of Morocco. In fact, they are the differential element of this cuisine, as is the case with the rest of the Maghreb.

Spice souk in Morocco

Among the spices and seasonings, the following stand out:

  • Ras el Hanut: this is the cornerstone on which much of Morocco’s typical food is based. It is a combination of up to 30 spices, including cumin, cardamom, paprika, nutmeg, and black pepper.
  • Cumin: Much of the typical food of Morocco has the characteristic flavor of this spice. Its use also prevents heavy (and flatulent) digestion.
  • Cilantro: although parsley is also a common ingredient in Moroccan recipes, the presence of coriander is more widespread.
  • Harissa: it is a concentrate based on roasted and smoked red peppers, garlic, caraway, and salt. It is used to season Harira and, in general, dishes with strong flavors.
  • Sesame: for many, it may seem unimportant the use of sesame seeds, but as they are cooked in Morocco, toasting on a wood-fired griddle, they bring a very distinctive flavor to dishes.
  • Orange blossom water: the result of cooking orange blossoms results in an essence with which the most irresistible Moroccan desserts and sweets are seasoned.
  • Lemons confit in salt: its flavor is essential for most of the “major” stews of the typical Moroccan food.

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