Moroccan vegetable merchant - photo courtesy Robbie Hamper
Moroccan vegetable merchant – photo courtesy Robbie Hamper

Morocco is a foodie’s paradise! As my parents, Don and Robbie Hamper trek through the many diverse and captivating regions of Morocco, they have found one consistency: colorful, creative cuisine that’s bursting with flavor. Their words and photos that follow showcase exactly what I mean.

Photography and words in this guest blog by Don and Robbie Hamper:

We knew there was something special about the food in Morocco from the moment we saw vendors in the marketplace selling the freshest ingredients one could imagine for every kind of dish.

 

Spice vendors decorate their tables with cinnamon, paprika, ginger and dozens of others piled high on display. The varieties of olives available is overwhelming and the fruits and vegetables are so fresh that we can hardly wait for our next meal.

Tagine of beef, peas, portebella mushrooms, lemons and  spices - photo courtesy Don Hamper
Tagine of beef, peas, portebella mushrooms, lemons and spices – photo courtesy Don Hamper

There seems to be a richness to the flavors in the food here that is unmatched. But, ingredients are only part of the reason that Moroccan food is so refined. It is also because of the way meals are prepared and the influence of an eclectic mix of cultures that settled here over centuries.

The main meal of the day is the midday meal unless it is the holy month of Ramadan. Most meals are served in a tagine which is a essentially a slow cooker with a pointed lid that fits over a dish.

A tagine - photo courtesy Don Hamper
A tagine – photo courtesy Don Hamper

 

 

 

Meat is arranged on the bottom of the tagine to cook first, then it is topped with fruits, vegetables, currants and those delicious spices. The main dish is almost always served with couscous and a side dish of olives. Every meal is prepared in a similar way, and each one is uniquely delicious.

 

 

We are impressed at the combinations of flavors that are used together. For instance, one lunch consisted of beef, peas, portebella mushrooms, lemons and spices slow cooked together. It is a food combination that we never imagined would taste so good.

Lunch dish with 3 types of fish - photo courtesy Don Hamper
Lunch dish with 3 types of fish – photo courtesy Don Hamper

A typical meal will start with a soup, called Harina. It is a lentil and rice soup usually served before or after the salad. In many cases hot or cold salad is served next. Salad consists of marinated eggplant, onions, sweet tomatoes, honey coated carrots, chickpeas and green peppers. Then, your main dish is served in the tagine. The bread, called kesra, is served with every meal.

You better come with a hearty appetite because the meal doesn’t end there: you must try Moroccan desserts!

 

Dessert is often a variety of pastries such as cornes de gazelle or briouats. Pastries are made with ground nuts, sugar, cinnamon and orange. The meal concludes with a platter of various fruit and mint tea.

Tagine of chicken, dates, eggs and potatoes - photo courtesy Don Hamper
Tagine of chicken, dates, eggs and potatoes – photo courtesy Don Hamper

Moroccan cuisine is a the result of Arab, Berber and Moorish influences, although you will find meals here more heavily spiced than in Middle Eastern countries. Common meats used include beef, lamb, chicken, seafood, camel and rabbit. The food has a Mediterranean flare and every meal we tasted was delicious.

Moroccan olives - photo courtesy Don Hamper
Moroccan olives – photo courtesy Don Hamper

 

 

 

 

 

It is interesting to note–the idea of a “sandwich” is relatively new to Morocco. The concept only started here in the 1980’s. Here, they call the baguette filled with salad and meat or fish a Bocadillio (the Spanish word for sandwich).

You won’t go hungry in Morocco. In fact, if you love to cook, you will return with a whole new menu of ideas and a collection of fresh spices to use!!