Flavours of Marrakech
We don't want to bang on about our sun-filled, action-packed, culturally-enriching holiday too much but we did eat a lot of good things and take a lot of photos of those things before they were stuffed in our mouths. Alongside the round up of restaurants, there were a few food items that crept on to the table and flavours that recurred meal after meal in different guises.
First up a gratuitous photo of some truly luscious looking pomegranates. Now I don't remember actually eating anything anything with pomegranates in but they must be used somehow somewhere. Also memorable were the roadside carts of bright red strawberries. When you have been stuck in the January gloom of the UK, the smell of fresh strawberries in significant quantities is a pretty good tonic.
Every meal, without fail, we were presented with a little basket of the moroccan bread. Round pucks dusted in some sort of coarse grain and perfect for anyone who likes a good chew on some crust. All Moroccan bread is, however, not created equal. When it is oven-fresh and recently sliced, it tastes sublime and readily soaks up any tomato/chilli/lamb juices. However, yesterday's bread becomes leaden, spongey and the chew turns to leather, and it is likely used to stuff the many pouffes and cushions decorating the riads.
I am not sure whether there is such a thing as Moroccan olives but we were routinely served up these beauties that had the same slick of oil, dusting of herbs and lemony flavour. As an olive-purist who shuns anything stuffed or flavoured and makes a beeline straight for the buttery nocellara variety, I didn't think these would be my bag. They were in fact delicious.
The winner for me, hand down, without fail was the chilli sauce. A subtle kick meant lashings on all the roasted meats, particularly the less palatable ones. There was much debate about the constituent ingredients. It was more of a sauce than a harissa-style paste, there was definitely chilli and perhaps a little garlic, but it had a fruitiness from either tomato or pepper and an underlying flavour of preserved lemon... or lime. The whole "is it lemon, is it lime" spanned several meals with no outright winner. Either way, definitely something to try and replicate.
The soup of choice in Morocco is harira, slightly spicy but, in truth, actually pretty similar to minestrone. Not groundbreaking but pretty darn tasty and the antidote to a diet of grilled meat, brains and udder.
Last but not least, ras el hanout. It translates as "head of the shop" and is a blend of the best spices that the shop has on sale. The one above was a heady mix of star anise - an awful lot of star anise, cinnamon, allspice, cardamom, and mace amongst others. We bought a couple of scoops and they were ground to a fine powder in front of us. The spices perfumed our luggage - now composed of at least 70% carpets - all the way home.