Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Maison Arabe

After an invigorating week of yoga and surfing, I was ready to enjoy my newly relaxed head space & body and finish off the holiday being pampered in return for my good behaviour :)

I booked myself into the Maison Arabe for my last 2 days in Marrakech. The location is perfect for wandering in the souks, being on the edge of the medina. There is a hamman spa, a restaurant, pool and most importantly to me: a cookery school!

Maison Arabe itself used to be a private residence, until 1946 when it was opened as a the first restaurant within the medina of Marrakech & was frequented by people like Winston Churchill & Queen Ingrid of Denmark.

I spent a lot of time lazing round the pool watching old movies and eating the fantastic food they serve here.

I saved my last day to spend at the cookery school, I met my fellow 'chefs' by the pool, and our guide began by discussing the origins and influences on tradition and modern moroocon cookery.

We were then led over to one of the Dadas (Moroccon chef) to see how M'esemen are made and offered both a plain and savoury one stuffed with olives, carrots and cheese to try. I had had these earlier in the week stuffed with bananas and amalou (Argan oil & roast almonds) for breakfast, I cant choose which I preferred!

We headed to our very snazzy kitchen and began by mixing and kneading our own bread in the morrocon style. Its a staple in morrocon diets, usualy ate with every meal & used almost as a utensil to mop everything up. A quick cup of some refreshing mint tea was laid out for us before we were shwon the local bakery.

Behind an innocuous looking doorway is one of the hearts of the city. For a few dirhams, people can bring their dough to the master baker to be baked in his wood fired oven and collect it later. Apparently he master baker used to be a master match maker in the old days too! By looking at the quality of the flour used and the number of loaves made for each family, they could spot you a village romeo at 50 paces :)

We had a quick peek around a shop selling every spice under the sun, having a sniff of all of the most commonly used in Moroccan cuisine.

Cooking commenced again with the creation of Zaalouk which is a cooked aubergine salad and Salad mechouia made from roasted peppers and tomato.
Note the AMAZING rose decorations they taught me to make out of tomato skin! So pretty!

And on to the main event; Chicken & lemon tagine!
Surprisingly simple and easy to make, the recipe is as follows:

Serves 2
400g Chicken thighs
1/2 preserved lemon
1/2 red onion
1tbsp of finely chopped parsley
1tbsp of finely chopped coriander
1 clove garlic
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2tsp powdered ginger
1 heaped tsp tumeric 
pinch of saffron
1tbsp olive oil
1tsp ghee
4tbsp water
Handful of olives

-Cut the preserved lemon in half and seperate the flesh from the peel. Pop the peel to one side for later and chop the flesh.
-Put the chopped lemon in a tagine (Dutch oven or Creuset would work here too) add in finely chopped garlic, parsley and coriander and all of the spices.
-Place the chicken in the tagine and stir around until fully covered in the marinade.
-Add in the finely chopped onion & mix in.
-Either cook on the hob or in the oven on a medium heat. Keep an eye on it and add water if the sauce starts to look dry.
- Scatter over the olives and place the preserved lemon on top of the chicken and serve!

After toiling over the stove for a few hours, it was time to sit down by the pool and enjoy the fruits of our labour- its a hard life sometimes :)

A lovely surprise at the end too! My very own tagine to take home and practice with and little certificate for my kitchen pinboard :)

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