Morocco, the culinary star of North Africa, is the doorway between Europe and Africa. Much imperial and trade influence has been filtered through her and blended into her culture. Unlike the herb-based cooking across the sea to the north, Moroccan cooking is characterized by rich spices. Cumin, coriander, saffron, chiles, dried ginger, cinnamon, and paprika are on the cook's shelf, and in her mortar. Harissa, a paste of garlic, chiles, olive oil, and salt, makes for firey dishes that stand out among the milder foods that are more the Mediterranean norm. Ras el hanout (which means head of the shop) names a dried spice mixture that combines anywhere from 10 to 100 spices. Each vendor has his own secret recipe (hence the name), and no two are exactly alike. Couscous, granular semolina, is central to Morrocan cuisine and is often cooked with spices, vegetables, nuts, and raisins. It makes a meal in itself or is topped with rich stews and roasted meats. Lamb is a principal meat -- Moroccan roasted lamb is cooked until tender enough to be pulled apart and eaten with the fingers. It is often topped with raisin and onion sauces, or even an apricot puree. Meat and fish can be grilled, stewed, or cooked in an earthenware tagine (the name for both the pot and the dish). Savory foods are enhanced with fruits, dried and fresh -- apricots, dates, figs, and raisins, to name a few. Lemons preserved in a salt-lemon juice mixture bring a unique face to many Moroccan chicken and pigeon dishes. Nuts are prominent; pine nuts, almonds, and pistachios show up in all sorts of unexpected places. Moroccan sweets are rich and dense confections of cinnamon, almond, and fruit perfumes that are rolled in filo dough, soaked in honey, and stirred into puddings.
Moroccan tea culture (Arabic: ????? - Ataí) is defined by the way tea (exclusively green tea) is prepared and consumed in Morocco, where it is widely consumed with food. The tradition has also spread throughout North Africa, parts of the Sahel, and southern Spain. Tea occupies a very important place in Moroccan culture and is considered an art form. Morocco is one of the biggest tea importers of the world.
Moroccan-style mint tea is now commonly served all through North Africa. It is served not only at mealtimes but all through the day, and it is especially a drink of hospitality, commonly served whenever there are guests. Unlike Moroccan food, cooked by women, this tea is traditionally a man's affair: prepared by the head of the family, it is served to guests, and it is impolite to refuse it.
Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria, countries where it is mostly drank, consume respectively 1.4, 1.5 and 0.7 kg .
The main Moroccan dish most people are familiar with is couscous, an old delicacy probably of Berber origin.
Beef is the most commonly eaten red meat in Morocco. Lamb is preferred, but is not as common due to its higher cost. Poultry was historically used and the importance of seafood is increasing in Moroccan food. The breed of sheep in North Africa has much of its fat concentrated in its tail, which means that Moroccan lamb does not have the pungent flavor that Western lamb and mutton can have.
Among the most famous Moroccan dishes are Couscous, Pastilla (also spelled Bsteeya or Bastilla), Tajine, Tanjia and Harira. Although the latter is a soup, it is considered as a dish in itself and is served as such or with dates especially during the month of Ramadan.
Morocco produces a large range of Mediterranean fruits and vegetables and even some tropical ones. The country produces large quantities of sheep, cattle, poultry, and seafood which serve as a base for the cuisine. To be exact, fruits are not common. Half-and-half is used in almost everything.
Characteristic flavoring ingredients in cooked dishes include Preserved lemon, cold-pressed, unrefined olive oil and dried fruits
Use of spices
Spices at central market in AgadirSpices are used extensively in Moroccan food. While spices have been imported to Morocco for thousands of years, many ingredients, like saffron from Tiliouine, mint and olives from Meknes, and oranges and lemons from Fez, are home-grown. Common spices include karfa (cinnamon), kamoun (cumin), kharkoum (turmeric), skingbir (ginger), libzar (pepper) , tahmira (paprika), anis seed, sesame seed, kasbour (coriander), maadnous (parsley), zaafrane beldi (saffron) and mint.