With its redolence of flavours and spectacle of colours, Moroccan food has been called festive, sensual and medicinal. Shaped by religion and a nomadic culture that furnished an abundance of spices, against a backdrop of extremes in climate, Moroccan cooks have created a distinctive cuisine. Traditional tools available to the Moroccan cook include widely recognised tagines as well as more obscure items.
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Tagine & Majmar
The iconic must-have cooking implement in a Moroccan kitchen, the tagine refers to both the food that is prepared and the earthenware device in which it is cooked. Tagine dishes are typically long-simmered stews made of lamb or chicken cooked in a round, shallow pan with a conical-shaped lid. The tagine is placed in an open fire or on a bed of charcoal to heat over long periods. A terracotta charcoal brazier, called a majmar, traditionally provided the heat for the tagines. When heating a tagine over a heating element, you will need a heat diffuser to prevent burning the bottom of the tagine.
Known also as the quadra wa alkaskas, the couscousiere is the cooking tool used by Moroccans to cook another staple dish: couscous. As an accompaniment to tagines, couscous is an indispensable part of the meal and is steamed and served like rice, although it is essentially tiny grains of dough. The couscousiere does double duty by cooking any meat or vegetables in the lower compartment, while steaming the couscous in the upper chamber, which is perforated to allow in the steam.
Mint tea is an end of the meal and all-day refresher that is served in a l'barrade, or teapot made of tin, silver plate or stainless steel. Sprigs of mint are combined with green tea and sugar in the teapot, and left to brew for several minutes in hot water. Served in slender glasses, the tea is poured from a high distance to create froth. The long spout of the l'barrade assists in pouring the tea.
Other gadgets in the Moroccan kitchen include a variety of sieves, such as the ghorbal, a sieve made of pierced leather, and the chtato, a sieve lined with silk. The Moroccan dish smen, or salted butter, is made using a ghorbal.
Cooking Pots & Pans
Among cookware used to prepare Moroccan food, the maqla is a copper skillet; the quarda and tanjir are large copper cooking pots, and the tanjra is a clay pot that in modern guise is found in stainless steel versions.
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