21 Jan A winter day at Riad 72 in Marrakech
It was a cool day when I wandered in to the kitchen at Riad 72. I heard laughing amongst the staff and gasps of amazement from the guests. I walked in and discovered that the kitchen was indeed a hot spot. With their sleeves rolled up and aprons on, eager “students” were learning about spices, seasoning and flavours used in Moroccan cuisine while chopping vegetables.
Under the guidance of Mustapha, our young chef, the team began to roast peppers over an open flame to remove the skins in preparation of taktouka. Aubergines were mashed and mixed with spices to create a smoky-flavoured zaalouk. And the main dish, a tajine, was simmering on the stovetop. Traditionally the tajine was placed into an open fire, but today modern cooks generally prepare their tajine on the stovetop. Practically all ingredients can be turned into a tajine : meat, chicken, fish, vegetables and some even include dried fruits and nuts.
Asmaa, our hostess, popped in to the kitchen from time to time to lend an extra hand as the students asked questions and tried their hand at preparing some of our favourite recipes. After all, we don’t just want our guests to stay at the riad, we want them to experience the true Marrakech. From meeting and interacting with our friendly staff in the riad to tasting the best flavours prepared in the kitchen, we invite our guests to join Mustapha for a morning of fun in the kitchen.
Guests often ask about saffron, which is grown in Taliouine in southern Morocco. In Marrakech it can be difficult to find pure saffron in the souks, but if you’re buying be sure the spice stains your hands yellow and has a bitter taste to ensure you’re buying the real spice. Another popular spice is ras el hanout, a blend of the best spices including cumin, cardamom, cloves, anise seeds, and more. This blend can be purchased at the most unassuming shops throughout the medina.
After a few hours, the tajine was ready. It was time for the guests to head on up to the sunny rooftop terrace where they enjoy the fruits of their labour! The temperatures at which the tajine is cooked have helped to caramelize the ingredients and the juice from the vegetables and meat create a flavourful sauce.
With a changing menu, guests can learn to prepare pastilla, couscous, m’simen and all kinds of tajines. If you are staying at Riad 72 and would like to learn the secrets to Moroccan cuisine, contact us in advance.