Official Language(s): Arabic
Some Other Languages Spoken: Ghomara, Berber languages (Tamazight, Senhaja, Tachelhit, Tarifit), French, Spanish
Ethnic Groups: Arab-Berber 99%, other 1%
Moroccan cuisine utilizes an arsenal of spices, fruits (dried and fresh), preserved lemons, olives, nuts, and various home grown meats and vegetables to create diversified dishes. This diversity can be appreciated by viewing the history of the country, starting with the original Berbers cuisine of couscous and tagines to the Arab invasion which introduced various spices, nuts, and dried fruits, to the Moors with oils, citruses and preservation techniques, and the Ottoman Empire which introduced barbecued meats, and so on. Also worth noting, cooks in the kitchens of the royal cities (Fez, Marrakesh, Meknes, and Rabat) have also helped to hone and develop the cuisines. Sweets and breads are also an important part of meals and snacks. Meals are often served in an informal, communal style and tend to promote socializing.
Recipe:Chicken Tagine with Preserved Lemons and Olives
A tagine is a classic Berber stew and is also named after the pot that it’s cooked and served in. The pot has a unique shape to keep the moisture in and is made of out of clay to allow for slow, even cooking. Traditionally, tagines are kept over hot coals, but modern tagines are sometimes made for the stove top. Alternatively, the dish can be made in a large, shallow, heavy bottomed pot if a tagine is not available. Tagine dishes vary by region, but generally contain some type of meat (chicken, beef, lamb), in-season vegetables and/or fruit (lemons, squash, tomatoes, apricots, prunes, carrots, etc.), and an array of classic Moroccan spices which are layered together and slow cooked. Many tagine recipes use Ras El Hanout for seasoning, which is a blend of over 30 spices, including ginger, cardamom, coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg, anise seed, cloves, and pepper, to name a few. The dish is often served over a classic couscous to soak up some of the flavorful sauce.
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 chicken, 3-4 lbs, cut into 8 pieces (or 3-4 lbs of just chicken thighs and legs, the dark meat is more flavorful)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, chopped
1 preserved lemon, rinsed in cold water, pulp discarded, rind cut into thin strips (if you don’t have preserved lemon, use whole thin slices of regular lemon)
1 cup green olives, pitted
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Combine all the spices in a large bowl. Pat dry the chicken pieces and put in the bowl, coat well with the spice mixture. Let the chicken stand for one hour in the spices.
If you are using a clay tagine (if you have one, you must soak the bottom in water overnight before using), place it on a heat diffuser on the heating element to prevent the tagine from cracking, and place the olive oil in the tagine and heat it on medium heat. If you do not have a tagine, you can use a thick-bottomed, large skillet with a cover. Heat the oil in the skillet on medium high heat.
Sprinkle the chicken pieces very lightly with salt (go easy on the salt, the olives and preserved lemons are salty) and place skin side down in the tagine or skillet for 5 minutes, until lightly browned. Lower the heat to medium-low, add the garlic and onions over the chicken. Cover and let cook for 15 minutes.
Turn chicken pieces over. Add the sliced lemon rind, olives, raisins, and 1/2 cup water. Bring to a simmer on medium heat, then lower the heat to low, cover, and cook for an additional 30 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and quite tender.
Mix in fresh parsley and cilantro right before serving.
Serve with couscous, rice, or rice pilaf.
Serves 4 to 6.