Morocco’s gastronomic jewels are easy to conjure up by merely walking into any spice shop or on occasion by perfumes with notes of orange blossom or rose water.

Whereas some cultures gastronomies are more visual, and others rely strongly on taste, Morocco is all about the nose.

Walk around Marrakesh with its hidden riads or small palaces and all you get are the smells of lamb tagines, a sort of light stew, of harira, a chickpea and lentil soup and of mint tea.The charm of the riad is that the opulence is never on the exterior. Behind a white simple wall with a door lie patios with exquisite tiling and fountains and gardens scented with jasmine and orange blossom.

Moroccan food is sweet and colourful with a lot of spices. They use dried fruits and nuts to great effect and introduce a fresh and acidic note in some dishes by using preserved lemons in salt.

Moroccan lamb is delicious and much lighter than European. Because of its Muslim heritage there is no pork or alcohol in Morocco.

Undoubtedly Morocco’s national dish is couscous, miniature granules of durum wheat steamed  and served with meat stew. Due to their long-standing relationship couscous is a firm favortite of the French. Chicken B’stilla, a meat pie, is a royal dish from the courts of Al-Andalus, the Arab kingdom in Southern Spain. Sweet and salty meat is wrapped in a delicate pastry called werka and baked. Moroccan salads are delicious and varied and make the sweltering heat a little more palatable. Djeema el Fna in Marrakesh with its fantastic food stalls is a great place to watch and eat all that Morocco has to offer.

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Tagine of Lamb with Almonds and Raisins

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

  • 3 lb. of shoulder of lamb, cut into ½ inch cubes
  • 1/2 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
  • generous pinch saffron
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • salt to taste
  • 6 ounces raisins, soaked in water and drained
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 cup peeled almonds
  • 3 tablespoons fresh coriander, chopped

Mix the cinnamon, ginger, pepper and saffron with 4 tablespoons of water. Toss the lamb in this mixture. Melt the butter in a pan. Add the lamb, onions, garlic, salt and enough water to come halfway up the meat. Bring up to the boil, cover and reduce heat to a gentle simmer. Cook for about 1 hour, turning the lamb occasionally, until the meat tender. Add the drained raisins, honey, the almonds and half the coriander. Continue simmering for a further 30 minutes or so, uncovered until the sauce is thick and unctuous. Taste and adjust seasoning. Sprinkle with the rest of the coriander.

Serve with couscous.