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How to Cook Like a Moroccan

by
Feb 26th, 2021

Experiencing a culture through food is the tastiest way to know about the rest of the world! Traditional recipes are precious memories that have been passed through generations of a nation’s people, and the ingredients and processes that go into what we eat today are ones we share with our ancestors thousand of years ago.

Cultures evolve over time, which is normal. As technology improves and nations interact with each other, the daily life of a people is influenced by the new language, music, art and, of course, food that is introduced. Sure, major historic events change the course of a nation’s government, political stance or geographic lines, but it’s the daily life of the average citizen that forms the deep-rooted traditions that last longer than anything official. 

Morocco is the perfect place to examine just how the daily life of its people has influenced the flavors, methods and ingredients of its cuisine. 

A bit about Morocco

Morocco is located on the northwest coast of the African continent directly across the Strait of Gibraltar from Spain. Because of its proximity to nations in mainland Europe, West Africa, North Africa and the Mediterranean, Moroccan culture today is the byproduct of centuries’ worth of cultural influence from all over the region. 

The long, narrow country contains a diverse landscape consisting of coastline, low plains, desert and mountains. It’s the only country in Africa that borders both the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea, so the area has been a frequently-travelled route for both land and sea traders for centuries. As a result, Morocco has rich and vibrant ports and cities that historically have experienced great wealth, education and prosperity. 

The Roman Empire extended to Morocco in its heyday, and the Phoenicians made good use of the strategic location. Right now, Morocco is mostly populated by those of Arabic and Imazighen origin, but the country’s trade success has resulted in Spanish, French and other Mediterranean influences in the region.   

Moroccan cuisine

If you get anything from this extremely short overview of Moroccan history, then let it be this: Moroccan culture is the byproduct of centuries of people of all origins, cultures, religions and languages making their ways through the nation. This diverse culture extends to the country’s cuisine, which is widely regarded as one of the most celebrated cuisines in the world

Ingredients like figs, olives, seafood, chicken, preserved lemons and stewed vegetables are common ingredients in Moroccan meals. Here are some of Morocco’s most popular dishes that you can try for yourself!

Tagine

If you typed “Moroccan dishes” into a search engine, then this will undoubtedly pop up toward the top of the list. 

Tagine is the name of both the meal and the dish that it’s cooked in. It consists of a succulent meat and vegetable stew slow-cooked in a clay pot. It’s believed that the stew originated during the Islamic Empire’s reign in the 18th century, while the clay pot is of Roman origin. 

And, fun fact, the first time the tagine appeared in recorded history is in the 9th-century collection of short stories, The Thousand and One Nights or, as many others call it, Arabian Nights

Here’s a recipe for tagine that you can make at home, even if you don’t have a traditional tagine pot!

Couscous

Couscous is such a large part of western cuisine nowadays that we don’t spend too much time thinking about its origins, but it’s been a staple in Moroccan kitchens for hundreds of years. Even many Sicillian meals are heavily based on this North African dish!

While every household has its own special version of a couscous recipe, one of the most popular versions is couscous with seven vegetables. In this family-style presentation, a large mound of couscous is topped with stewed vegetables and meat. 

Here’s how you can make it!

Rfissa

This dish is a little more time-consuming than most, but the result is an absolutely mouth-watering blend of rich spices and strong flavors.

This stewed dish features a whole chicken stewed in a blend of fragrant spices, tender onions and lentils and is served over pastry or bread. Traditionally, Rfissa is a symbol of fertility and is presented to new mothers, but it’s also a common dish at celebrations or festivals. 

Here’s a recipe for Rfissa!

Bastilla

If you’re a savory pie kind of person, then this is for you! 

A Moroccan bastilla is a flaky-crust pie filled with meat, usually chicken, lamb or beef, and flavored with crunchy fried almonds, fragrant orange water and an omelet stuffing. It’s topped with a light dusting of powdered sugar before serving, giving the savory pie a unique flavor that’s perfect for any day of the week! There are also seafood bastilla versions that are popular along the Moroccan coast.

Here’s a recipe for bastilla that you can easily make!

Harira

Wintery soups are beloved all over the world, Morocco included. 

The Atlas Mountains in Morocco do get chilly at times, so this hearty soup is certainly the way to go. The lentils and chickpeas add density to the spiced tomato-based soup, and meat is often added to make the comfort soup just a little more, well, comforting. 

This delicious, hearty soup is popular during Ramadan to break fast at the end of the day. 

Here’s a recipe for harira soup!

As you can see, Moroccan food is rich with flavor, history and culture. Try out some of these Moroccan foods next time you’re feeling adventurous, and you may find your next favorite dish!

And, while you’re at it, check out our other articles on international cuisines, like how to cook like a South African, how to cook like a Belgian, how to cook like a Sicilian and how to cook like a Nepali!

Enjoy!

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Featured photo courtesy Pixabay/benoitdive

Author of Article

Colleen Ford is a South African who now lives in Spokane, Washington. She loves to travel, camp (in warm weather) and bake.

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