Traditional Moroccan Cooking

moroccancookingOne of my friends recently posted on facebook about picking up this amazing little cookbook Moroccan Cooking in a second hand store and mentioned that it had a recipe for thistle tajine in it. That immediately got my attention so I got me a copy off of amazon and I don’t regret it! A big thanks to Annie for sharing this! I’d love to hear from other folks if they have favorite traditional world cookbooks like this.

This book is a real treasure of traditional food rituals, and I was delighted to find a recipe for sellou in it as well as other tips on the types of utensils used in cooking and preparation of curds and whey. There are also plenty of great recipes for vegetarians, although it is not a vegetarian cookbook.

Looking through the recipes brough up all kinds of memories from when I studied in Morocco in 1995. I was studying food preparation rituals so I had the opportunity to eat some really tasty food. One of my less tasty memories was during the feast of Aid when every family kills a sheep. During that time the air was full of a metalic smell which hung on you. My Moroccan mother had prepared a delicious dinner with all of the parts of the lamb. But for some reason that evening both my Moroccan brother and sister disappeared on various pretenses and didn’t show up for dinner. I didn’t mind, thinking that there would be all the more for me, until my mother passed me a plate of some thing that looked quite strange and she wouldn’t tell me what it was.

When I tried it, it tasted like mackeral and I have never been much of a fan of that, so I wasn’t too pleased, after I had managed a few bites though, she suddenly tells me that it was the brain of the sheep! I didn’t like it at all. But she had a good laugh. She said she didn’t want me to have an impression that I wouldn’t like it before trying it, so she didn’t want to tell me what it was. It was a good experiment. But perhaps I would like brain cooked in a different manner like these fritters by anoffalexperiment. I haven’t tried it. But after reading this recipe from the cookbook I feel even less like trying it! Perhaps we can get anoffalexperiment to try this recipe for us, since she recently posted about making head cheese.

Steamed Sheep’s Head

Allow 1 sheep’s head for 2 people. Buy the sheep’s head divided in 2 and ask the butcher to chop off the horns. Take out the brains, and shake the heads hard to make sure that any maggots that might be tucked away inside the ears and mouth to fall out.

Brush with a stiff brush. Wash in many changes of water and salt very carefully. Rinse several times and leave to drain. Steam as for “steamed meat” (choua). After 2 or 3 hours cooking, depending on the quality of the meat, take them off the heat and remove any wool. Put back to steam for half an hour and serve pipping hot with kerouiya Harira.

Kerouiya Harira (caraway)

(Ingredients for 8 people)
3 ltr (5 pts) water
2 soupspoonfuls of cleaned and pounded caraway seeds
150g (5oz) flour
1 bunch mint
1/2 teaglassful of lemon juice
3 or 4 grains of gum-acacia pounded with the caraway seeds

Put the water on to boil, mix the flour with water, strain through a fine sieve and pour into the hot (not boiling) water, stirring briskly. Let it boil while stirring gently. Stalk the mint leaves, pound hard in a mortar with enough salt for the seasoning, dilute with a little water and pour into the pot.

Add the caraway seeds and the gum-acacia, soaked in water. Bring to the boil, stirring gently. Should there be any lumps, pass through a fine sieve, away from the heat. Before serving re-heat and add the lemon juice. This harira must be rich and creamy. It is used to accompany sheeps heads.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Annie

    ps another thing i remember finding interesting in this book is her reference to a herb “absinthe” which i wonder was it a translation of wormwood and if so, i have no knowledge of this as a culinary herb….

    1. hellaD

      Yes absinthe is wormwood, but I think there are many different kinds and some of these are used more for culinary than others.

  2. Annie

    Do you have any thoughts about gum-acacia in his recipe, or in general?
    Wonder if you’ve seen the Paula Wolfert “Foods of Morocco” and whether it approaches this one in “authenticity?”

    Best wishes to you Hella D.!

    1. hellaD

      Yes I think the gum-acacia helps with the sellou but it isn’t absolutely necessary to have it and I think many people may not use it. It would help to hold the mixture all together and not be too crumbly, but I think it will taste the same. I have never tried using gum-acacia in cooking but I would like to some day.

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