From kitchen to tajine
One thing that brought us to Marrakech was its wonderful food culture. Eating is intertwined in the day-to-day activities and still is a huge part of Moroccan culture. The same goes for tea. Tea is not ‘just’ tea. The process has as much details to bear in mind as a Japanese tea ceremony. With a food culture like this we not only wanted to eat at as many wonderful places as possible, we also wanted to learn the tricks of the trade. We decided on a cooking course at Dar Attajmil because whilst staying there it would really feel like cooking at home.
We had decided on the following menu:
– Four small starters: ghobizza, beetroot, zalouk & pumpkin jam
– Vegetarian tajine
– Chicken pastilla
Hassan takes us to the souk to get ingredients for our cooking course. It’s exciting to see all the razzle-dazzle: motorbikes that splash trough the dirt, chickens waiting for execution and camera shy locals dodging Sophia’s lens. Armed with a basket full of veggies we stroll back to the riad. But first we make a quick stop at a spice annex beauty store. We savour the taste of long tradition that is hidden in the glass jars. We can’t help ourselves to buy some ras el hanout and amber soap.
Fatima rules the kitchen. With some French words, hand gestures and a lot of smiles she teaches us how to cook four entrees, bread and two main courses. The key to the perfect Moroccan dish has these three things: fresh ingredients, the right amount of spices and the knowledge of generations of strong women before us. Every woman in this country knows how to bake decent bread. About time we get in on that expertise.
We start of mostly rinsing and cutting, but soon we are adding tablespoons of spices and stirring the base sauce. Like Italian food, Moroccan dishes keep it simple. It’s all about fresh ingredients, the right kitchen supplies and a plate with spices. Of course pepper, salt and sugar. But even more important are cinnamon, cumin, cardamom, paprika, ginger, saffron and cayenne pepper. It makes that specific Moroccan taste we’re after!
Great tip for when you want to buy your own tajine after experiencing its wonderful magic: don’t buy glazed ones. They will break during cooking. Go for the authentic looking terracotta ones and you’re safe. The pretty colours are only for serving purposes.
The tajine is simmering on the rooftop on an even hotter burner than the stove. The chicken pastille is getting fried and the other dishes are just waiting to be served in their pretty little bowls. Time to bake some bread. All you need is water, salt, flour and fresh yeast. It’s not exact science. Mix the ingredients and adjust when you feel the consistency of the dough is too wet or too dry. When you’ve punched the hell out of it and are starting to feel sore it’s time to let the dough rise. After that it’s utterly simple. Make disks of one centimetre thick “pizzas” and bake them in a dry pan. Bon appetite!
Recipes will follow
We enjoyed this cooking class at Dar Attajmil.