Moroccan food dates back to over two thousand years, to a tribe of nomads called Berbers, who were the first to inhabit the land.
The Berbers used local ingredients, such as olives, figs, and dates, to prepare their food which primarily consisted of lamb and poultry stews. Over time, traders and conquering nations such as the Phoenicians, Carthaginians and Romans, brought new food customs to the mix. Other influences to Moroccan cuisine include French, Spanish and British.
The strongest influence, however, which shaped Moroccan cuisine into what it is today, was the Arab invasion in the seventh century A.D. The Arabs brought with them new breads and other foods made from grains. They also brought with them spices like caraway, cinnamon, ginger, cumin and fragrant saffron as well as the idea of sweet-and-sour cooking, which they had learned from the Persians.
Magic ingredients of Moroccan cuisine
Morocco, unlike most other African countries, grows its own produce. Local fruits and veggies include oranges, melons, tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, and potatoes. The native produce that form the key Moroccan ingredients are lemons, olives, figs, dates, and almonds.
Located on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, the country is rich in fish and seafood and meals are built around lamb or poultry. Every meal is accompanied by flat, round Moroccan bread.
The Moroccan national dish, the Tagine, is a lamb or poultry stew cooked with almonds, hard-boiled eggs, prunes, lemons, tomatoes, and other vegetables. The dish gets its name from the distinctive earthenware dish with a cone-shaped top in which it is cooked and served.
Another staple Moroccan dish is couscous, made from fine grains of semolina. It is served many different ways, with vegetables, meat, or seafood.
Most Moroccans have a sweet tooth and every household has a supply of homemade sweet desserts made from almonds, honey, and other ingredients. Mint tea, sweetened in the pot, completes the Moroccan meal.
Best places to get your Morocco on
Moorish Blue - Moorish Blue, at McMahons Point, Sydney, serves up fantastic contemporary Moroccan cuisine with an exotic range of spices, herbs, fruit and vegetables from Tunisia, North Africa and Spain. The restaurant’s private dining room offers a spectacular view of the Harbour Bridge and their warm cauliflower salad and lamb tagine are to die for!
Afous Moroccan and Spanish Tapas - This joint at Mosman, Sydney, offers a unique variety of Moroccan and Spanish cuisine coupled with fantastic service and a great middle eastern ambience. The fish and lamb tagine, the sangrias and the meatballs are the go-to here, while the desserts are absolutely decadent as well!
Recipes to bring the Moroccan magic to your menu
When you think of Moroccan cuisine, think olive oil, lemon, wheat, fruit, cinnamon, saffron and ginger. Think secondary cuts of meat, slow cooked until tender in a tagine. Think social, communal gatherings full of laughter... and be generous – Moroccan is all about sharing.
Here are two interesting recipes to spice up your menu: