Kelly is the best vacation planner (maybe one day we will start a business). Her friend recommended a cooking class in Marrakech so she signed us up. At first I wondered if I would regret spending a full day learning to cook and not relaxing at our insanely glamorous suite at the Mandarin Oriental, but the cooking class was a highlight of our trip. Our Moroccan Cooking Class was taught by a local chef and he integrated information about Moroccan culture.
The class is taught at small cooking school with its own garden just about 20 minutes outside of Marrakesh. Part of the class was a tour of the gardens where we got to pick the food for our meal.
Cooking is tied to gender roles in Morocco. Chef Youssef explained that only men prepare Morocco’s traditional mint tea, and that there are tea masters tasked with this job. Hassim, who was the sweetest man, is a tea master and together Hassan and Chef Youssef explained how the tea is made. It’s a unique process that involves boiling the tea as it steeps.
Moroccans like to sweeten their tea and Chef Youssef told us that sugar is the traditional gift that you give when you visit someone’s home. In Morocco the sugar comes in giant chunks shaped like a mountain to echo the shape of Morocco’s Atlas Mountains.
While men make the tea, women prepare the bread. A local woman gave us a bread making demonstration. The bread is cooked in a hearth, and we got to taste it while it was still warm. While we were on the Marrakesh food tour we learned that women make the pancakes too. The desert camp employs women to prepare bread and pancakes – so even in the middle of the desert, the traditional gender roles are at play.
We learned how to prepare three different salads, three different tagines, and cous cous during the class. We cooked a feast!
While the tagines cooked Hassan took us for a talk through the town. He placed Berber style hats on our heads, and he changed into a stylish suit jacket for the occasion. We all loved Hassan so much. I just wanted to bring him home with us.
He cheerfully led up on a walk through the small village and children greeted us by saying “Bonjour” (yes, I felt like I was in a Moroccan version of Beauty and the Beast walking through a tiny village with people saying “Bonjour” all the time).
If you like to cook and are heading to Morocco – we all loved this class. The class lasted for most of a day, but we learned so much about Moroccan cuisine and culture, and the staff at the school was fabulous.
One of the many recipes we learned was for Berber Style Vegetable Tajine. We picked almost all of the vegetables from the garden ourself. I made a quick little video that shows how we made the tajine – we started with the sauce and then added the veggies.
- 2 medium Tomatoes, diced
- 2 medium Onions, peeled and quartered
- 4 tablespoon Olive Oil
- 2 teaspoon Sweet Paprika
- 1 teaspoon Turmeric
- 1 teaspoon Ground Ginger
- a generous Pinch of fresh Parsley
- 1/2 teaspoon Salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper
- 1 cup Water
- 2 medium Potatoes, peeled and quartered
- 1 large Carrot, peeled, halved crosswise, and quartered
- 1 large Zucchini, halved crosswise and quartered
- 2 small White Turnips, peeled and quartered
- a handful of Peas
- Start by placing the tomatoes, onions, olive oil, sweet paprika, turmeric, ginger, parsley, salt, and pepper, in a clay tajine. Add 1/2 cup water and bring to a simmer. Let simmer for about 10 minutes while covered.
- Place the vegetables in the tajine on top of the sauce. Arrange them in layers in the shape of a mountain. Top with another 1/2 cup of water. Cover and let cook for about about 40 minutes while covered. Occasionally spoon some of the liquid from the sauce over the vegetables.
If you don’t have a tajine I think you could use a dutch oven on the stove instead.
You can learn more about the cooking school here.