How to Create Moroccan Flavors in Your Kitchen
By: Safa Eljazouli/Arab America Contributing Writer
If you are an epicure and you’ve never been to Morocco, then I urge you to plan a future trip to the country. I promise, your taste buds will be in heaven.
Moroccan cuisine is one of the most delicious and appreciated cuisines in the world. Chefs everywhere get inspiration from Morocco hearty tagine dishes, Morocco delicate almond pastries, and the fragrant Moroccan mint tea. The smart combination of flavors and textures in Moroccan cuisine creates delicious tastes that your palate will remember for years.
The good news is, you don’t need to be a Chef or an expert cook to make Moroccan dishes at home. Most Moroccan recipes are very accessible even to beginners and often, you are only a few ingredients away from making delicious Moroccan recipes in your kitchen.
Moroccan Cuisine Smart Combination of Ingredients
The first secret of Moroccan cooking lies in the savant use of ingredients.
Moroccan cuisine knows which ingredients complete each other. You have for example lemon and ginger which combine beautifully with chicken. Another example is melted honey, butter, and orange blossom water. They create an addictive mix that makes pancakes (and pastry in general) go from basic to a top-level.
It’s like chemistry. Every ingredient added has a role in creating the finished flavor.
When you start cooking Moroccan recipes, you will start noticing these ingredients combinations here and there, depending on the recipe types.
Moroccan cuisine also uses some rare and uncommon ingredients that add unique flavors to Moroccan recipes. One of the ingredients that you will find in many Moroccan recipes are the preserved lemons, the spicy harissa, and the marinated olives.
These ingredients are preserved, which is a process that completely transforms their taste. Take Moroccan preserved lemons, for example. They are made with only lemons, salt, and water. The resulting preserved lemons are soft, delicate and so strong in their scent. Whenever you open the jar, your kitchen is filled with a delicious sweet smell, hard to replicate otherwise.
Like preserved lemons, Moroccan preserved olives and harissa add interesting and unique tastes to Moroccan dishes. They are essential in every Moroccan kitchen used on an almost a daily basis.
If there is one thing I learned cooking Moroccan dishes, it’s that slow cooking always gives the best results.
In Morocco, while many Moroccan recipes are quick and easy to make, perfect for busy days, others require long hours cooking. This is true especially when it comes to dishes served to guests and during special occasions.
In fact, when Moroccans cook for celebrations (weddings, baby showers, engagement parties, etc), they make sure the ingredients marinate for hours, sometimes overnight. Then each dish is cooked on a very low heat on the stove or on a traditional brazier to allow the flavors to deeply infuse the ingredients.
Dishes are cooked the same day, and if the celebration takes place in the evening, cooking usually starts the night before to get everything ready with the marinade. Then the whole next day is for slow cooking.
The tangia, Moroccans’ beloved dish, and the culinary specialty of Marrakech, is a great example. The secret behind the delicious taste of the tangia is that it’s slow-cooked overnight in hot ashes. There is no other way around it. The result is a meat that melts in the month and a sauce that is one of the heartiest you can taste.
Moroccan Special Cookware
I have to give credit to Moroccan cookware too, as it highly helps with achieving Moroccan cuisine unique flavors.
Moroccan most used cookware is the Moroccan clay tagine pot, used for making Moroccan tagine dishes but also any other stew-like recipe.
In fact, while you can get great results cooking in classic pans and cooking pots, a Moroccan clay tagine pot will help you greatly achieve those great concentrations of flavors.
Moroccan tagines’ shape is the perfect shape to allow a maximum condensation of flavors and let the ingredients deeply infuse with the herbs, spices, and aromatics. Besides, tagine pots composition (clay) helps with the slow cooking experience and gives the tagine dish a delicious after taste of roasting.
When cooking in a tagine pot, the dish feels hearty and flavorful, which is hard to get with classic cookware.
Moroccan Cuisine is an Expression of Love
In Morocco, as in many other Arab countries, food serves as an expression of love. When you visit a family member or friend, the minute you enter their house they start serving food.
This is also how Moroccans show they care about you. When invited to a Moroccan house, the table stays full and colorful with different dishes and side dishes. Dishes keep coming and going with a couple of mint tea and pastry breaks to digest in between.
When you know how much care and preparation each dish has taken, it’s one of the best ways to receive love, to feel appreciated, and to belong.
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