Marrakech RecipesMarrakech Spice
Indecisiveness can strike the best of us in Marrakech, where every dish is appealing thanks to a mix of vibrant colors, perfectly charred meats, and insanely delicious smells. Thankfully, it’s hard to make a poor choice when ordering, especially with such eclectic offerings. Our Berber menu satisfies all appetites for savory and sweet and features essentials like tagine, couscous, spice blends, and preserved lemons.
Bread is an important part of any Moroccan meal, ideal for sopping up soft vegetables and juices from a tagine or this creamy hummus. Za’atar—a blend of oregano, thyme, sesame seeds, and other dried herbs—offers a flavor both familiar and new. Don’t be shy when adding salt, which chickpeas seem to crave.
Yield: 4-5 servings
In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, add garlic and purée for 10 seconds. Add chickpeas, tahini, za’atar, and lemon juice. Puree, slowing adding oil until mixture is smooth. Add additional oil or water if consistency is too thick. Season with salt.
Remove mixture from food processor, place in an airtight container, and refrigerate until serving. Before serving, mix well and garnish with olives.
Tagines as cookware are unique to North Africa, but the concept of braising meats and vegetables low and slow is universal. This version echoes the ability of Moroccan cuisine to expertly combine savory and sweet.
Yield: 4 servings
Season both sides of chicken with paprika, cumin, salt, and pepper. Add 2 tablespoons oil to a 6-quart pot on medium-high heat. When oil is shimmering, sear chicken, about 1 minute on each side. Remove chicken from pan and set aside.
Add an additional tablespoon of oil to pan, then onions. Season with salt and pepper and sauté about 12 minutes until soft and caramelized, stirring occasionally. Add garlic, celery, and carrots, and cook 1 minute. Add chicken, apricots, cinnamon stick, and chicken stock. Bring mixture to a boil, cover with a lid, and reduce to a simmer. Cook until chicken is falling off the bone, about 50-60 minutes. Garnish with coriander and serve.
Ras el hanout is the ultimate spice blend. Its aggressive punch stands up well to the assertive flavor of lamb, so this is not a shy dish. If you have trouble finding ras el hanout at your local store, it’s available online at kalustyans.com, but if you live in New York and haven’t visited their store in Murray Hill, go now—it’s spice heaven.
Yield: 10 servings
Place lamb in a large bowl and rub ras el hanout over entire piece of meat. Sprinkle garlic over lamb and add olive oil. Cover, refrigerate, and allow lamb to marinate over night.
Take out lamb from refrigerator about 45 minutes before grilling. Preheat grill to medium-high. Wipe excess garlic and oil from lamb. Season with salt. Grill lamb, turning occasionally, until a meat thermometer registers 130˚F. Allow meat to rest 10 minutes before slicing. Serve with sliced preserved lemons.
Wash and dry lemons. Cut an X into lemon lengthwise, but don’t slice through the fruit entirely. Instead, leave about 1-2 centimeters intact. Generously pack lemon with salt and place into a sterile, airtight container.
Repeat process with 6 additional lemons. Place cinnamon stick and peppercorns in center of container, in between lemons. Add the juice of 3 remaining lemons to the jar, and seal tightly. Let stand for a month, until lemons are very soft. To serve, slice lemons thinly. Once preserved, refrigerate lemons, which will keep for several months.
Couscous is another element at the heart of Moroccan cuisine and, like pasta, offers a blank canvas. If you love spice, throw in some chili. If you want a bit of freshness and crunch, add some raw fennel.
Yield: 4 servings
Bring chicken stock and water to a boil. Shut off heat, add couscous, and cover tightly for 5 minutes. Fluff couscous with a fork. Add lemon juice, oil, mint, coriander, and scallions, and mix well. Season with salt and top with almonds before serving.
Dessert lovers hit the jackpot in Morocco, where there seems to be an endless supply of amazingly good sweets. This panna cotta is on the lighter side, but saffron and dates add a colorful twist.
Yield: 5 servings
Add gelatin and water to a small bowl and set aside.
Bring cream, sugar, saffron, and orange zest to a boil, whisking occasionally. Shut off heat. Add gelatin mixture to hot cream mixture and whisk.
Add 2 tablespoons honey and yogurt to a large bowl and mix. Add warm cream mixture to yogurt and mix well. Pour mixture into 5 ramekins and refrigerate until cold. Cover ramekins with saran wrap and refrigerate overnight.
To remove panna cotta, dip mold into hot water. Dip a knife into hot water and gently trace blade along entire inside edge of each mold. Place serving plate on top of mold and flip over. Drizzle with remaining honey and garnish with dates.