Morocco's Traditional Dishes
March 8, 2022
Morocco is an ancient culture that spans hundreds of thousands of years with a recorded history starting around the 5th century BCE. Morocco was annexed by The Roman Empire in about 40 CE. In around the 7th century CE, the Muslim conquest of The Maghreb took place introducing Islam to the region.
The food influences on Morocco originate from various regions including Andalusia (Spain & Southern Europe) , Africa (Amazigh) and Mediterranean with many traditional Moroccan dishes that are popular today, originating as far back as the 7th century BCE. The staple grain in Morocco is wheat although barley is more popular in the south of Morocco.
Many spices were introduced to Morocco through Arabic trade, but Morocco is globally known for saffron from Talaouine, mint and olives from Meknes and Oranges and Lemons from Fez.
Common spices include coriander, cinnamon, cumin, turmeric, ginger, paprika, saffron, mace, cloves, fennel, anise, nutmeg, cayenne pepper, fenugreek, caraway, black pepper and sesame seeds. Twenty-seven spices are combined for the Moroccan spice mixture “ras el hanout” which I can highly recommend.
So which dish is Morocco’s national or most recognized cuisine?
The main staple is couscous and for those of you who do not know this ingredient, it is spectacular. It is a tiny “ball” of wheat like sprinkles that cook very quickly and are very easy to digest. Beef is commonly eaten as a meat staple and usually cooked in a tagine and also includes ingredients like, lemons, plums and boiled eggs.
For me, the most traditional dish from Morocco is a Tagine.
So, what is a tagine?
A tagine is two things. It is a traditional north African cooking vessel made from clay with the bottom wider than the top with a lid that fits on top. It is also the name of one of Morocco’s most traditional dishes and is a stew of meat, poultry or fish combined with vegetables and sometime fruit, but it can also be a vegetarian dish with no meats. The tagines origins seem to date back to the 18th century, although there is a school of thought that cooking with clay pots originates from Roman influence. Nevertheless, Tagine is recognized as a truly Moroccan dish. The purpose of the domed top of the tagine, is to keep all the moisture in and the food cooking in all that delicious tasting juice.
Seasoning a tagine prior to use is essential. This is done by soaking it in water, covering it in oil and placing in a heat source for a couple of hours. This removes any clay like taste that may permeate food once cooked.
My all-time favorite Moroccan dish has always been Moroccan lamb tagine with dates and if you would like to try the recipe, try this one out. We cannot wait to launch Empowch in Morocco very soon and I hope to visit the country to celebrate this traditional dish and work toward empowering peoples pockets in Morocco.