All about Moroccan food, 1001-savour gastronomy born from the sun
Though North African cuisine is usually highlighted by the couscous, this world famous meal is actually rather of Tunisian and Algerian origin. Yet, Morocco is essentially the homeland of tajines and pastillas that are true symbolons of Moroccan food.
Unlike couscous, which is fairly easy to prepare and as a result gained international success, tajines are more complex dishes and require specific preparation. Therefore, Moroccan cuisine has remained a traditional family cuisine that is less exported to the world than couscous.
Moroccan food is a Mediterranean cuisine in a broad sense. Multiple influences can be traced such as an Arab origin dating back to the Abassides, or Moorish in the sweet and sour notes of the tajines, Berber as in the couscous or Jewish and Sub Saharian, even India.
Moroccan food is seasonal, varied but also unknown
Thanks to its diverse origins, Moroccan cuisine offers a large variety of dishes: numerous tajines, couscous, pastillas (stuffed brick leaves with meat or seafood or else), briouates (triangle or round shaped pastry stuffed with meat or fish).
Besides a number of classical dishes such as the typical chicken tajine with lemon and olives, you can find other recipes which might be known by Moroccans only as for instance the tajine Makfoul with caramelised tomatoes or the Tanjia Marrakshia or the Harira soup served during Ramadan, or M’hancha, a snake-shaped pastry or Zalouk, a delicious Moroccan salad.
Morroccan food has been diet conscious from the start by the importance given to vegetables, which are beautiful and varied in Morocco: carrots, cabbage, eggplant, pumpkin, zucchini, onions, peppers… All these vegetables bring colour, flavour and texture to Moroccan dishes.
Moroccans also love lentils, chickpeas, fava beans and other beans, which allow to do without meat thanks to their diverse vitamins. However meat is often used but moderately and the quality of Moroccan lamb contributes to the reputation of the country’s cuisine.
Typical Atlantic fish and seafood are also important ingredients in Moroccan dishes as the country has the longest coastline in Arab countries and of course sardines, which can be prepared in multiple ways, are both affordable and savoury.
A cuisine with a 1001 flavours
Morocco is the land of spices and famous open air markets. Mixing the spices is part of the culinary art: saffron, ginger, coriander, paprika, cloves, cumin, cinnamon, pepper or tumeric are among the most used. Some mixes such as zahtar or ras el hanut date back to the most ancient times.
Hot pepper is also used in Morocco but quite moderately and Moroccan cuisine is not particularly hot compared to Algerian or Tunisian cuisine. Here a subtle and complex mixture of spices and flavours is preferred to the power of harissa, which is not used in Morocco.
Last but not least, olive oil and olives are part of the culinary Moroccan ritual. Olive oil producers are not as famous as in France or Italy but they are respectful of traditional methods.
Mint tea tradition and sunny wines
Traditionally mint tea is part of Moroccan gastronomy. Its preparation can vary according to the region- sweeter in the North (Tangier), more flavoured in the south (Marrakesh)- and to the season with numerous herbs (sage, absinth) that can be added to the tea.
Morocco also has some great vineyards and produces superb wines, sometimes with French partners. These wines are ideal to enhance the typical flavours and spices. A selection of some of the best Moroccan wines can be found in the Moroccan cookbook published by restaurant Riad Monceau : “Riad Monceau, A palace of Moroccan gastronomy“.
A traditional cuisine on the road to novelty
Traditionally, Moroccan recipes were transmitted from mother to daughter and Moroccan cuisine is by essence a family tradition. It explains how Moroccan dishes kept their genuine character but innovation was not a preoccupation.
However, over the last years, there has been an evolution implemented by some famous Chefs, for instance Mohamed Fedal, who is the owner of the restaurant Moha named after his own nickname. He has given an impulse to a new Moroccan cuisine along with Choumicha, the ambassador of Moroccan cuisine on the radio waves, who supports innovation and creativity.
Moroccan food is undergoing a change. It reminds of the innovative spirit that revolutionised British cuisine a few years ago and made it rank among the most sophisticated and creative cuisines in the world.
Genuine tradition and sophisticated creativity : Moroccan cuisine by restaurant Riad Monceau
The Riad Monceau has its own vision of Moroccan gastronomy and participates in this evolution towards a contemporary Moroccan gastronomy or even a true Moroccan Haute Cuisine, a glimpse into a new culinary universe.
Starting from a genuine and traditional or even forgotten recipe and turning it into a new version has been Rachida Sahnoune’s challenge. Sauces have become lighter, flavours more subtle and dishes are aesthetically presented as in the sophisticated tradition of French haute cuisine.
At the Riad’s Restaurant, a piano duet is being played between Rachida Sahnoune, the Moroccan Chef and Isabelle Aubry, the French owner, a harmonisation of two different cultures and a quest for a balance between tradition and creativity for today’s Moroccan cuisine.
From the Moroccan cookbook “Riad Monceau – A palace of Moroccan gastronomy” with the king authorization of its author.