Moroccan (foodie) souvenirs
Honey – Moroccan honey is the most un-honey-tasting honey that I’ve ever eaten. We often had it for breakfast, the rich caramel sweetness drizzled across English muffin-styled Moroccan pancakes called beghrir or the flaky, multi-layered rghaïf. Accompanied with a tall glass of freshly squeezed orange juice and a café crème, it made the perfect start to the day.
Spices – although I’ve been really happy with my old blend of ras el hanout from Greg Malouf‘s Moorish, I couldn’t resist the chance of picking up some more to compare and contrast it with what I use. I also got turmeric, ground ginger and two types of chilli powder(at least I think that’s what piment fort/piment doux means!).
Olives – a kilo of green olives in what the shopkeeper described as “piquante” flavouring and another half kilo of wrinkled sweet black olives. I loved how each meal in Morocco started with a small bowl of these olives and a basket of flatbread as we perused the menu. They never lasted long.
Dates – considering the variety and quality on offer, I was restrained and came home with only a half kilo of the sweet, plump fruit. One dish that kept turning up in the books that I read while travelling there was of a roasted fish, stuffed with almond-filled dates. Must try and keep a few true Moroccan dates to try out that recipe.
Preserved lemons – while picking up the olives and dates in a small shop near the Casablanca train station, minutes before we had to get the train to the airport, I couldn’t resist getting a few of these glorious-looking lemons. This, despite the fact that I’d made a jarful from some organic lemons before I left Ireland! Another thing for the compare and contrast experiments, methinks.
Garlic – the small bulbs of garlic available in Morocco are much sweeter than the stuff that you can find on sale in Ireland. I love to use raw garlic but it can be very off-putting if, instead of gently cosying up to the other ingredients, it decides to loudly broadcast its presence. I brought some good quality garlic home from Paris and it lasted me ages so I couldn’t resist grabbing a couple of bulbs in Casablanca when I got the chance.
Argan oil – I had never heard of argan oil before it cropped up on Kieran’s Ice Cream Ireland blog but, sure enough, every book that I had on Morocco mentioned it. He also talks about amalou – a breakfast-time mixture of argan oil, almonds and honey – that I never came across but I’ll have to try making it with the bottle of argan oil that I brought home.
Green tea – for making, or trying to make, the Boyfriend’s beloved mint tea. We’re going to have to start growing our own mint again, though, as each small teapot in Morocco seems to be crammed full of the fragrant leaves. I also tried to buy a (huge!) Moroccan cone of sugar to give him a chance of re-creating the full experience at home but luggage (and Boyfriend) restrictions were prevented it.
Sauce Piquante – I love harissa, a hot chilli paste that is often used to accompany couscous, and was mistakenly looking forward to having it in Morocco. Harissa is, however, from Tunisia so that was a no go but I did get mildly addicted to a bottled condiment on every table called Sauce Piquante. Although it looks like tomato ketchup, do not make the mistake of dolloping it all over your meal before you’ve tasted it, not unless you want your mouth on fire, that is. In small doses, it’s a great accompaniment to the ever-available brochettes (kebabs), omelettes, chips, sandwiches and just about anything that you have on your plate. We bought a small jar to give a kick to bread and soft cheese lunches at our hotel in Essaouira and what was left came home with us.
Ebly – this is a kind of precooked durum wheat which is touted as an alternative to rice or pasta. Although I’ve read about it in NZ magazines, I’ve never come across it in Irish shops. As a result, when I discovered it in a Marrakech supermarket, I couldn’t resist bringing a box home to try.If you’re going to Morocco and interested in food, the two most important things to take with you are a big rucksack – and a very patient Boyfriend!