Moroccan Cooking I: To Market We Go
Being in Morocco is my first time being in Africa. Everything was new. Everything was Exciting. But mostly – everything was Delicious. So I found a cooking school, Souk Cuisine, signed myself up, and was ready to expand my worldly cooking knowledge (Really the lack there of). First up was the Market tour; Spices, Vegetables, and Bargaining like a Berber.
This is part I of a three part post on my time spent cooking Moroccan Food.
I met my Souk Cuisine group in the Big Marrakech Square; Djemme El-Fna at 10am. The group was large, so we divided into two groups. Colour bags and grocery lists were distributed to each of us. We were headed into the Souks (Markets) for an extensive primer into Moroccan spices, vegetables, and bargaining.
Each step of the way I accrued new knowledge. Generally, I eat my food, enjoy it, but never analyse what is in the food I just inhaled. Our first stop was an Olive shop. It reminded me of the market scene in the Movie Aladdin; Sugar dates! Sugar dates and beads! Sugar dates and pistachios!
With the olives piled high, you can sample each variety to conclude if they are quality olives and if they are delicious. I am not a huge olive fan, but Moroccan olives are different – they are fresh – so I have established a taste for them. We also learned that the browner the lemon the better because it has more citrus taste when added to cooking than a bright yellow hard lemon does. So browning squishy lemons it is!
Next up was the Spice store. I am so intrigued by spices, but I admit my knowledge is nominal; pepper, salt, and cinnamon. Every spice in the place was bright, colourful, enticing. We were invited to smell each spice and their main usages were explained. Thyme is for chicken, Cumin is for Fish, Paprika is for colour.
We sampled the ‘tourist’ saffron (bad quality) and Real saffron: It resulted in an immediate orange tongue from the tiniest of pieces. Now that is quality.
We weighed our spices we needed for the day: thyme, cumin, paprika, cinnamon, cardamom, anise, turmeric, ground ginger, ground pepper, chilli pepper, and of course Ras El Hanout.
Ras El Hanout translates to ‘the best of the shop’, and is referred to as the ’30 spice blend’. It is a unique blend of multiple ground spices. Every shop is distinctive. Some have more cinnamon while others have more saffron. When you find a shop with Ras El Hanout that you love – take note – as only he has this EXACT blend.
Off to the vegetable market to test our bargaining skills. Berbers are the native people of the mountains in Morocco, and they are said to be highly skilled negotiators. We were told to bargain hard for the price of our vegetables, to the point that we could be referred to as Berber Bargainers. I like the sound of that – negotiation is a great skill to have.
We picked out the carrots, eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, pumpkin, and green peppers required for our recipes and negotiated fair prices. No title of Berber Bargainer was inaugurated to me but that is ok – it takes time and practice to hone skills.
Then we had it all. We had our Olives, our Oils, our Spices, and our Veggies – we were ready to cook.
Moroccan Cooking II: Mixing Moroccan Magic
Moroccan Cooking III: Recipes to Share