Moroccan rich cuisine includes foods such as the popular couscous and tagines, skillfully seasoned to produce wonderfully fragant and spiced -but not overly hot- dishes. Both, couscous and tagines, are Berber dishes, but Moroccan cuisine also shows the influences Arab, Mediterranean, Spanish and neighbour African countries.
Couscous is a type of pasta made from wheat. Once cooked, couscous looks like small bits of yellow rice. It is often served with a thick stew and cooked on the steam while the food is simmering.
A tagine is a stew made with meat and vegetables, sometimes fruit, cooked in a special clay pot known as... tagine! You may find a lamb and dates tagine, a fish and tomato, or a chicken, olives and preserved lemons tagine, just to give some examples. There are tagines with only vegetables and beans - or lentils - which are very close to the original Berber recipes.
A kind of flat bread - or khubz – is served with meals. Mint tea is the preferred beverage. It can be served in the morning or afternoon, before or after the meals. Honey pastries and other sweets may be served along the tea.
Morocco has a Mediterranean coast and an a much larger Atlantic one with abundant fish stocks. Fish is well liked and there are ample opportunities to sample fish dishes along the Moroccan coast.
Chicken is the most popular meat eaten in Morocco followed by beef and lamb - the preferred option. Pork is not eaten as the majority of the population is Muslim.
Moroccans like a broad array of fruits and vegetables. A Moroccan fruit tray may consist of oranges, grapefruits, and lemons together with melons, plums, apricots, grapes, figs, and dates. Potatoes, onions, zucchini, carrots, and pumpkin are common vegetables in a Moroccan dish. Eggplant is a favorite vegetable in Morocco and turns up in many cooked vegetable salads or fried dishes. Being a country with a Mediterranean side, olives are common in their cooking.
Moroccan spices and flavors
The local spices - coriander, parsley and cumin - are often mixed with the ones introduced by the Arabs - saffron, cinnamon, cumin, pepper and ginger. Paprika is also very common. and turmeric appreciated.
Mediterranean spices, such as basil or marjoram, also appear in Moroccan cuisine and it is not strange to find dishes flavored with olives and preserved lemons.
A tough piece of beef may be stewed or cut escalopes. Escalopes will be left to soften in beaten egg with sliced garlic before being dredged into breadcrumbs and cooked in oil.
Some recipes from Morocco
If you make local friends and are invited to share a meal with them, take advantage of this opportunity to taste the wonderful cuisine, but also take care to use the right hand to eat and and pass food to other guests at the table. The left hand is not considered "clean" and it is a show of poor manners to use it to handle food. This is common in many Arab countries.
Taking off your shoes is the proper etiquette in many houses. Look at your host and follow his lead in this matter.
Previous to the Arabian occupation of Morocco, the Berbers had evolved their personal music. The Berbers tell stories with music and music is their mean to pass traditions along families and generations. The complicated Berber dances have roused admiration - the ahidous, a circle dance executed at harvest time, is an example.
Moroccan culture bears both, Berber and Arab, influences.