We wound our way through the narrow roads of Marrakech’s souks. Mopeds, scooters, bicycles and people rushed past us whilst sellers try to coax us to their stalls selling everything from lamps to tortoises and spices to hand-woven rugs.
Karima, our local chef for the morning, led us to one of the many food markets tucked away within in the maze that is the souks.
An area I would’ve never found myself, our market for the morning was tucked away just behind Medressa Ben Yousef; an old Islamic school which is now open to visitors.
We stopped off at the butchers first picking two live chickens out from the back of the stall. Whilst the freshest chicken we’ve probably ever eaten, a visit to this stall isn’t one for vegetarians…
Whilst the man prepared the chickens for us we walked the few steps over to the market place to pick up the vegetables and spices we’d need for our Moroccan lunch of a typical Moroccan salad, lemon chicken tagine and orange slices sprinkled in cinnamon for dessert.
This man at the vegetable stall was more than happy to pose for photos and teach us a few words in Arabic. He certainly had an impressive selection of fruit and veg on display!
Vegetables bought, chicken bagged, we moved onwards to buy fresh herbs including corriander and parsley for the tagine and fresh mint with which we’d use to prepare Moroccan Whisky (mint tea).
Karima led us down another small street where a man was selling lemons. She told us this man always had the best lemons and she was right as these were by far the best looking lemons we’d seen that morning!
Our last stop on the way to Karima’s house was to buy some of the spices we’d be needing for our tagine. Moroccan’s have such a love for cumin that instead of salt and pepper pots they have salt and cumin pots. It comes as no surprise then that one of the spices we were after that morning was cumin.
We also picked up some preserved lemons and some olives which would accompany the chicken in our tagine.
A few more turns in the souk and we were at Karima’s house and Riad just five minute’s walk away from Medressa Ben Yousef.
Karima showed us how to prepare Moroccan mint tea which is done in the following way:
- Using 2 spoons of Chinese gunpowder green tea to a liter of water, put the tea into a pot and pour over the boiling water
- Let this rest for a few minutes than pour out the water into a glass – leave this to one side
- Add another glass of boiling water to the tea leaes and let it rest for a further two minutes
- Swirl the water in the teapot around and pour it out to wash the tea leaves
- Now fill the pot by about 2/3 with more boiling water, add the first glass you left aside to the pot again
- Put the pot on the stove at a medium to high heat
- When you see bubbles forming add the fresh mint and sugar to taste
- Let the kettle boil until you see the mint leaves rise to the top and the tea has become bubbly and foamy
- Moroccans don’t stir the tea, rather they pout the tea into a glass and then pour it back in to the pot
- Once the tea has been mixed in this way it’s ready to enjoy
- Don’t forget to pour the tea from about an arm’s length above the glass to get that nice foam on top!
After we’d relaxed with a mint tea if was time to get cooking!
After chopping the herbs, onion, garlic and scopping out the flesh of the preserved lemons we added all this to the tagine pot with the chicken.
Then we added the oil and spices mixed it all together.
This is then cooked for 10 minutes until the onions are soft.
After that 10 minutes a glass of water is added to the tagine before cooking for a further 10 minutes. When this is up the add the olives, the skin of the preserved lemon and chilli (if desired) before cooking for 40 minutes. Check the tagine from time to time and add more water if necessary. Then, enjoy!