I cooked the meal below, can you believe it?
Well, one of the tagine’s, the other one is Matt’s. But still. A tagine! In Morocco! With actual Moroccan ingredients! Not to mention the bread! Doesn’t get much more authentic than that.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. This is a post about a Moroccan feast, so pour yourself a mint tea, sit back, and read on, as this is a long one.
Oo fun fact – the tea is poured from a height in Morocco in order to have foamy bubbles on top. Cool huh? Now, if only I could manage to do so without spilling more tea outside the cup than inside…
The day started with us being picked up by Michel near our Riad at 9.40am.
He drove us to the farm where our day of cookery would begin, about 20 minutes outside of Marrakech.
We started the day with some blind spice smelling. We all put on blacked out sunglasses while having to guess the spice based on smell. I’d like to think I did pretty well (I got oddly competitive), being the only one who identified orange blossom and parsley. But I didn’t manage to get turmeric. Hmm.
After that we were off to our stations. We watched lovely the Nezha show us how to make the delicious Batbout (bread on the stove) and then it was onto us – with her supervision of course.
We donned our aprons and set on to kneading, punching, and stretching. I could almost hear Kimberley’s voice from the Great British Bake Off telling me it was all to “break down the gluten”.
To make your Moroccan bread (Batbout), you will need:
200g wheat flour (semolina)
200g white flour
10g of yeast (we used live yeast)
1L warm water
Combine both flours, salt, and yeast. Add water in slowly, a little bit at a time. Work the ingredients, first kneading and then stretching the dough. If necessary, add in more water. Knead and stretch again. When it’s a springy, soft (not sticky), doughy consistency, divide into large balls. Using the length of your fingers (not just finger tips, you want the top to be as smooth as possible) spread the dough until it is about 1.5cm in height and nice & round. Cover with a cloth and let rise for about 1 hour. When it has risen, heat up a metal pan, and cook your batbouts, turning regularly until cooked through. Set aside to eat warm.
As our breads were left to rise, it was time to make the chicken tagine.
To make enough for two people (easily adjusted) you will need:
2 chicken breast fillets
One preserved lemon
Handful of red olives from Souss
One red onion, finely chopped
Glug of extra virgin olive oil
7g rancid butter
Pinch of Saffron
4 tsp grated ginger
1/2 tsp turmeric
8g fresh parsley & coriander (cilantro), chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
Sprinkle of salt & pepper
Marinade your chicken with a splash of the water, the spices, the garlic, herbs, and the flesh of the lemon for 10 minutes. Heat the tagine on a high heat, and add in your onions. Sautee for a couple minutes, then add in the oil, rancid butter, and saffron (crush saffron in your palms before dropping it in). Add your chicken and the marinade, along with the rest of the water. Let simmer for 40 minutes, checking to make sure the bottom doesn’t burn. Add more water if necessary. Take out of the heat and add in your olives and the skin of the lemon on top of your chicken slice. Keep the lid closed until ready to eat.
It was then time to prepare the salads (more cooking, I know!) We made three salads: a sweet cucumber salad, a moroccan salad, and an aubergine salad (Zaalouk). They were all delicious, but my favourite was the aubergine.
To make this delicious salad, you will need:
3 medium aubergines (eggplants), cooked and chopped
3 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped
Glug of olive oil
Sprinkle of salt & pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cumin
Handful chopped parsley & coriander (cilantro)
1 tbsp tomato paste
3 garlic cloves, minced
Add the tomatoes to a pan with the olive oil, garlic, spices, salt & pepper and cook over medium heat. Add in the tomato paste and cook for a few more minutes. Once the sauce has reduced, throw in your aubergines/eggplants, parsley, and coriander/cilantro. Mix well and remove from heat. With a masher, squish the whole thing until it is well blended. Garnish with some parsley leaves and serve warm.
Then, it was time to prepare dessert (last recipe, I swear!)
In order to make Moroccan Crepes (Msemen), you will need:
250g wheat Flour (Semolina)
100g white flour
2g of yeast
10g white sugar
1 egg yolk
10cl melted butter
10cl oil (tasteless such as canola)
1/2 L warm water
Pinch of salt
Combine both flours, salt, egg yolk, sugar, yeast, and butter. Slowly adding the water, work to ingredients to make a stiff and smooth dough. Divide your dough into large balls, and flatten them. Add a layer of mixed oil and butter, and sprinkle with semolina. Fold one side, and again oil and sprinkle. Fold the older side, oil and sprinkle. Fold top and bottom, oiling and sprinkling. Flatten the formed square with your finger tips. Cook the the msemen on a hot, lightly oiled skillet. Brown both sides and serve with jam, honey, fruit or ice cream – or whatever you like really. My vote goes to Nutella.
After all that faffing about the cooking stations, it was time to reveal the pièce de résistance – the tagine. We had had a whole day mounting up to the joy it would be to tuck into this feast of food we had all cooked from scratch – so to say we were excited was an understatement.
As we lifted our lids, delicious steam poured out, carrying such a welcoming aroma I would’ve shoved the whole thing into my mouth there in then, if it weren’t so hot.
I mean, just look at it! Can’t believe I had the self control to wait until we got to the terrace.
We all sat outside in the sun, with glasses of wine and our delicious meals.
Guys, it was incredible. I don’t mean to boast, but this was one of the best tagine’s I’ve had. Ever. It was perfectly balanced. Every bite of chicken, every dunk of the bread.
I was feeling pretty content at this point, not gonna lie.
I was wined and dined, well fed and truly satisfied.
But you know how it goes, no matter how full you are, there is always that part of your tummy that keeps it’s space for desert. We had our Msemen with ice cream and fruit. Perfect ending to a perfect day.
I can’t recommend this day enough. It was so much fun!
Everyone we met had great stories to share & tips to pass on. Our host Michel provided great french humour, and our surroundings just made it seem so surreal. I can now say I cooked a chicken & olive tagine with preserved lemons in Morocco, in a local farm. Doesn’t get much better than that.
You can find Fain D’Epice here.