As a coastal country with a long history of trading, Morocco’s cuisine understandably has African, Arabic and Mediterranean influences, stemming from its diverse population. Probably everyone knows the country for its couscous dishes and its fragrant stews cooked in tagines – and if there were one word to describe the cuisine it would probably be ‘colorful’, just like the country.
Many of their finest recipes make it to the Iftar table, especially the soups with which they initially break the fast.
Perhaps the most famous soup of them all, this fragrant dish is synonymous with Ramadan, often closely followed by a sweet dish such as chebakia (fried pastries). The two following each other make an easily digestible start to end the fast and the main Iftar meal follows a little later. Every family has its own traditional recipe but this is a fairly simple version.
– 500g diced shoulder of lamb
– 1½ tsp ground black pepper
– 1 tsp ground turmeric
– 1 tsp ground cinnamon
– ¼ tsp ground ginger
– ¼ tsp ground cayenne pepper
– 2 tbsp butter
– 100g celery, chopped
– 1 onion, chopped
– 25g fresh coriander, chopped
– 2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
– 1.5 liters water
– 145g green lentils
– 1 x 410g tin chickpeas, rinsed and drained
– 115g vermicelli
– 2 eggs, beaten
– Juice of 1 lemon
– Parsley (for garnish)
1. Put the first 10 ingredients, down to the coriander, into a large pan over a gentle heat. Stir for 5 minutes.
2. Strain the tomatoes, reserving the juice, pour them in and simmer for 15 minutes.
3. Pour water, tomato juice and lentils into the pan. Bring to the boil, then simmer, covered, for about 2 hours.
4. Turn the heat to medium, add the chickpeas and pasta and cook until the vermicelli is just al dente. Stir in lemon and eggs and cook for a further minute.
5. Garnish with parsley and a slice of lemon and serve.
Sfouf is a semolina turmeric cake, made with no eggs and no butter. It’s not over-sweet and has a pleasant nutty flavour from the tahini, which is used to line the pan. Delicious with almost anything, and traditional for Ramadan.
Makes 16 squares
– 300g semolina, coarse or fine
– 85g cup plain (all-purpose) flour
– 1 tbsp turmeric
– 1½ tsp baking powder
– 125ml vegetable oil
– 250ml milk
– 245g sugar
– 2 tbsp tahini to line the pan
– Handful of pine nuts or almonds
1. Preheat the oven to 190C and brush a 23cm square baking tin with the tahini. Use it all – any extra can sit on the base.If you don’t have tahini, this step can be omitted.
2. Combine the semolina, flour, turmeric and baking powder in a large bowl.
3. Mix the oil, milk and sugar in another bowl until the sugar dissolves.
4. Combine the dry and wet ingredients and stir until the mixture is smooth and coloured evenly. Pour the mixture into the tin, and sprinkle the nuts all over the top.
5. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the nuts look golden.
6. Cool on a rack and cut into 16 squares.