With a bit of haggling in the souks of Marrakesh it is easy enough to buy a tagine but to learn how to use one properly you need to turn to La Maison Arabe cooking course. A mini bus takes you from the La Maison Arabe hotel on the edge of the medina to the “country club” which is 15 minutes drive out of Marrakesh. The course is taught by a traditional Moroccan chef, or Dada, Lazziza and an interpreter Mohammed Nadir who also provides a cultural and historical background to Moroccan cuisine.
Arriving at the cooking course you sip on mint tea as Mohammed outlines the importance of food in Moroccan life and the key elements of Moroccan cuisine (let’s just say it’s all about the spices). Then you are taken to the beautiful kitchen overlooking the gardens where each of the eight participants has their own work station and follows Lazziza in preparing a tatuka salad of peppers (recipe below), chicken tagine with preserved lemons and dessert of oranges with cinnamon.
Once the cooking is completed you can enjoy a leisurely private lunch in the garden where you are served your finished dishes. The benefit of the La Maison Arabe workshop is that it is small in size (limited to eight participants) and very hands on with each participant preparing and cooking their own meal rather than just watching an instructor. My only complaint would be that the dessert of orange and cinnamon while traditional was a bit too basic and I did not really need to be taught how to cut an orange into slices and sprinkle with cinnamon. Still, the cooking course gave me a greater insight into Moroccan cuisine and in case you are wondering Mohammed recommends buying the plain earthenware tagines rather than decorated ones as these can go on the stove top and also to check that the tagine has some holes in the lid for steam to escape.
Moroccan Taktuka Salad
1 green pepper
1 garlic clove chopped finely and mashed with a pinch of sea slat
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
1 tbs olive oil
Salt to season
1. Roast the pepper over your gas ring using tongs until the skin blisters and turns black (if you don’t have a gas ring put the pepper under the grill in the oven).
2. Wrap the pepper in foil and leave to sweat for at least 15 mins. The skin should then peel off easily. Skin, de -seed and cut into fine strips.
3. Peel and dice a tomato leaving the seeds in.
4. In a frying pan add the tomato, garlic and spices and cook over a low heat using the back of a wooden spoon to break up the tomato. Once the tomato is broken up add the green pepper and keep cooking until the mixture reduces and there is no moisture left.
5. Sprinkle with fresh parsley and serve. Can be served hot or cold.
Serves 2. Adapted from a recipe taught at the La Maison Arabe cooking course.
Details: 1 Derb Assehbe, Bab Doukkala, Marrakesh Medina, Morocco (Ph (+212) 5 24 38 70 10)
Damage: Pricey – 500 dirhams (£50)