Distinctive from the dishes of the Middle East, Moroccans artfully play with the taste buds by marrying sweet and savoury flavours in their cooking. If you’ve ever visited Morocco, you’ll have witnessed first-hand the local obsession with سكر (sukr, Arabic for sugar) from the mounds of glistening white powder stirred into cups of mint tea, the sprinkling of icing sugar over savoury bastilla pies or traditional shebakia (sesame biscuits shaped into a flower and fried) dripping with glistening honey – and the list goes on.
Examples of the marriage between sweet and savoury are prolific in Moroccan cuisine, from oxtail tagine with sweet prunes or honeyed figs, chicken thighs simmered in a honey, cinnamon-spiced sauce with plump raisins or the infamous bastilla (flaky filo pastry filled with tender meat or fish, topped with icing sugar). Moroccans are also creative and resourceful cooks, adept at making a lot out of very little to sustain the whole family. Every Friday, grandparents, parents and children gather around a clay pot of steaming couscous, meat and vegetables, dotingly scooping up the very last titbits with khobz (bread). This ritual appreciation and celebration of food is humbling to bear witness to.
Listed below are 5 classic Moroccan dishes and recipes to try at home and fall in love with. From wholesome soups to fiery shakshuka, we’ve got you covered for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
This fiery one-skillet dish of gently poached eggs in a tantalising mixture of simmering tomatoes, green peppers, onions and garlic is a Moroccan staple. Though it’s North African in origin, these days shakshuka is popular throughout the Middle East and across the rest of the globe as a staple brunch food. It’s easy to understand its appeal, packed full of protein, flavour and goodness (like all Moroccan food). For a traditional Shakshuka recipe click here.
These flakey, buttery pancakes (meloui) are an absolute staple as part of a Moroccan breakfast. If you’ve ever visited Morocco, you’ll have ripped their delicious layers and covered them with soft cheese (usually Dairylea – honestly, don’t knock it till you’ve tried it!), homemade jams and a crispy fried egg sprinkled with cumin salt. Simply divine when sat on a sunny terrace with a pot of steaming coffee and views over the Rif Mountains. Made using semolina flour, meloui are shaped by rolling a folded strip of dough up like a rug, and then flattening the upright coil into a circle. For the full recipe click here.
This wholesome, aromatic soup is commonplace throughout Morocco. Traditionally served to break the fast during the holy month of Ramadan but also eaten throughout the year, this dish is like a familiar and warming hug for Moroccans, whether hailing from the Northern, coastal region of Al-Hoceima or the very depths of the Sahara Desert.
You’ll find steaming Harira expertly cooked and served in Moroccan households, but also at restaurants and even as street-food. Consisting of lentils, chickpeas, vegetables and sometimes flour, rice or noodles (to add bulk), topped with a dash of lemon juice, it goes a long way to fuel your day, whilst being nourishing and very delicious. Beef, lamb or chicken are typically added to flavour the stock; however, they can be omitted for a vegetarian version. Click here for my vegetarian recipe.
One of my all-time favourite recipes, this slow-cooked chicken dish is simmered in a honeyed sauce with golden raisins and served on top of vermicelli noodles (traditionally sprinkled with sugar and toasted, flaked almonds).
During my time spent living in Rabat (in North-East Morocco) I was charmed by this dish which was lovingly made by the local ladies at the Arabic school where I was studying. Each day, the cooks would be seen chattering like sparrows in the kitchen, placing chunks of meat and vegetables in robust tagine pots and cooking them outside in the garden on a flickering open flame. The result being that inside the earthenware terracotta-coloured pots, the tender meat would melt off the bone and produce a gorgeous fragrant jus. Myself and my peers would always eagerly look forward to the days of the week that the word ‘seffa’ was neatly scribbled on the chalkboard hanging above the kitchen.
The vermicelli noodles used in this dish in Morocco are golden, thick and more closely resemble pasta than the transparent rice noodles we find here in Asian supermarkets. For this reason, I recommend also serving this with fluffy couscous or bulgur, which are equally as delicious. Full recipe here.
This wholesome supper is ideal for scooping with khubz (bread) on a cosy evening. The kefta tagine takes its name from the small golf-ball sized meatballs (kefta) within it, made with lamb mince (or a combination of beef and lamb), herbs and spices. Cooked in a pot on a bed of onions and garlic, the kefta are then coated in a rich tomato sauce. Once the sauce has simmered until thickened, the sauce is parted with a spoon to make space for eggs which are cracked directly into the perfectly-formed potholes. The lid is then placed on the pot and the eggs are cooked until wonderfully runny in the middle. Full recipe here.
What’s your favourite Moroccan dish? Let us know in the comments below, and we’d love it if you shared your favourite Moroccan recipes too!
Lydia Daniels is a graduate linguist specialising in Spanish and Arabic. Now based in London, Lydia works in digital marketing while blogging on the side at The Foody Girl. She delights in whipping up sensational dishes, spending lazy afternoons sketching, hiking in mountains and immersing herself in new cultures. Her adventures have taken her to many enchanting cities so far; Valencia, Madrid, Barcelona, Amman, Rabat. All the photos in this post are Lydia’s own.
To explore the Foody Girl’s entire collection of Moroccan and North African recipes click here.
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