Whenever we visit a new country or culture, our favorite 'experience' is joining a cooking class. We have taken a "French Market Cooking Class" in Paris, a "Cambodian Cooking Class" in Siem Reap and now... a Moroccan Cooking Class in Marrakech.
I find the best way to get to know a new culture is through food. What people eat explains a lot about their society, landscape, environment and rituals.
Living in the US, we have the option of almost EVERYTHING, and there are new restaurants, and interesting takes on cuisines constantly popping up. But when we travel somewhere remote... we find that there are usually one or two specialties that the area is known for... and most likely, its exactly the same as what they were eating 1000 years ago.
And in Morocco... that is Tajine & Couscous.
OUR MOROCCAN COOKING CLASS
One of the reasons I had booked Dar Les Cigognes was because I had read great things about their cooking class. We flew into Marrakech around noon on Friday, so I had booked a class for 3pm that same day. We weren't planning to take any other tours while in Marrakech, so I was using this cooking class as time for us to learn about the culture and kick start our weekend in Morocco.
We met Pierre in the riad courtyard, and I learned at that moment it would be a private class. (we've only done cooking classes with a group). We decided on our menu and then we were off to the local market!
And when I say local market... I mean - legit - local market. Fresh (live) chickens, preserved lemons, gorgeous roses, as well as fresh bread being baked. I don't think i've ever eaten chicken that fresh before... and I will admit - it was tasty! Luckily there is a butcher there which 'prepares' the chicken, so we didn't have to take a live chicken home. I don't think I could handle that!
Then we walked through the local spice market where we learned some interesting little secrets about spices. (such as how to spot fake saffron, and that you should make sure you buy the freshest spices by watching them grind it for you)
THE COOKING CLASS
After the tour through the market, we were back at Dar Les Cigognes for our cooking class.
With some wine in hand, we began to learn all the secrets of Moroccan dishes.
First, we started with couscous from scratch. Now i'll admit... I had always thought couscous was just something you can easily get from a box... that it was a grain... like quinoa. But I was wrong. Couscous is made from semolina flour + flour + water. And when combined correctly, and blended with your hands... it turns into a wonderful and fluffy couscous. (watch the video below, its hard to explain!)
We also learned the true way to cook couscous (vs the boxed version). Technically the couscous should be steamed (on top of boiling water with vegetables) using a "couscousier". After about 10ish minutes, you need to take the couscous off, add a bit of water and then aerate the couscous. (it will be HOT!). And this needs to happen about 3 times. They gave Andrew the 'difficult/painful' job, and I got to grate tomatoes. :)
We also made chicken tagine as well as traditional "salads" aka vegetable starters.
It was such an amazing experience to learn these traditional dishes from a true "Dada", a traditional moroccan cook. She was such a sweetheart, and paired with Pierre we were laughing throughout the entire class.
AND NOW WE EAT
We decided to have our meal on the rooftop terrace of Dar Les Cigognes, and clearly that was the right decision. First we started with the 4 "salads" aka vegetable starters. And then we went onto our vegetable couscous & chicken tagine.
Now, I swear this to be true... the couscous we made the first night in Marrakech was by FAR the best couscous we had our entire stay in Morocco. I think it was knowing that it was aerated 3 times by hand that made it so wonderful. :)
This was such an amazing way to start off our mini-holiday in Marrakech. Now... onto the Souks for some shopping!
Learning new local recipes is the best souvenir you could take home.