Three perfect books to carry around Morocco
Lonely Planet’s World Food Morocco
Does exactly what it says on the tin. Having travelled and eaten our way around Thailand and Malaysia with the respective versions of these small, incredibly useful books, I recently added their Moroccan edition to my collection. Dense with information on everything from food customs to street foods and including recipes for traditional Moroccan dishes like couscous and tagines, they’re an invaluable resource while travelling. A mine of fascinating facts on argan oil, which is used to make the nutty breakfast spread called amalou; details of the ubiquitous mint tea and other drinks; regional variations in foodstuffs; and the utensils used in the Moroccan kitchen. A selection of great photos help you to identify ingredients and – Lonely Planet are nothing if not thorough! – it also has a dictionary of culinary terms, a glossary and useful phrases in both Arabic and French. As well as our well-used Malaysia & Singapore and Thailand books, the Lonely Planet World Food series also covers places like Portugal, Vietnam, Ireland (but, to the Boyfriend’s disgust, no New Zealand!), Greece and New Orleans. An invaluable travelling companion.
La Cuisine Marocaine by Latifa Bennani-Smirès
I picked up an idiosyncratic English translation of this in Marrakech and – odd syntax and spelling aside – it is a very engaging book. Recipes for rghaïf and beghrir vie for space with details of how to make and shape pâtisserie Marocaine, the small, intensely sweet, rich and fragrant nut-filled pastries that are served with mint tea. There is little in the way of introductory detail about these and many other dishes although the methods are well explained.
The pick of the bunch…
A New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden
The grandmother of them all. This book – a reissue of Claudia’s 1972 landmark Book of Middle Eastern Food – is not just about Moroccan food but includes dishes from across the countries of the Middle East, putting them firmly in context, both historically and geographically. Last year I took this book out of the library in Christchurch but, after reading just a few pages, knew that I had to get my own copy as there were so many recipes that I wanted to investigate. The introduction is a culinary history of the Middle East as Claudia tracks the techniques and ingredients that travelled in the wake of conquerors and oftentimes remained in situ long after their empires had disintegrated. Traditional stories, folklore and songs are dotted through the recipes, further enriching the text. There are more than 800 recipes in this book – and that doesn’t count the frequent regional and national variations also detailed after the recipes.
The paperback is perfect for holiday reading although 1) it’s important to avoid reading it when you’re hungry and 2) it did make me long for my own kitchen to try out her recipes. Not as unashamedly greedy as Nigel, Claudia still manages to convey her infectious love for and interest in these dishes as well as her belief that food is all about family and friends. It’s a bible for anyone who, like me, loves to cook with the ingredients of the Middle East – cumin and coriander, preserved lemons and lentils, fresh herbs and harissa. An absolutely invaluable book.
And, when you come home:
Get your hands on Greg Malouf‘s Arabesque for an important A-Z of Middle Eastern ingredients and what to do with them after dragging them from plane to train to automobile. Another book that I haven’t read myself but which cropped up several times in my foodie research on Morocco is Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco by Paula Wolfert. Paula has a website here. New Zealand author Julie Le Clerc also has a wonderfully colourful cookbook called Made in Morocco.