Thursday, July 10, 2008

A Moroccan Feast

You might think that our most memorable meal in Morocco was the lavish spread we enjoyed (10 "salads", which were mostly cooked vegie dishes, to commence; chicken tajine; pastries and mint tea & fresh fruit) served in an opulent Dar in Fes with rugs, coloured tiles, mirrors, brass and copper everywhere. But no. It was in a simple café opposite the ruins of the ancient Roman town of Volubilis, once the biggest Roman post in north Africa.

When I went into the gloomy interior of the café, where old men sat sipping black coffee, I asked the young owner what he proposed for lunch (since there wasn't any menu). How about salad followed by tajine of meatballs in tomato sauce? Sounded great, so we sat on the terrace overlooking the café garden and the Roman ruins. A few moments later, after giving us the inevitable bowl of olives and flat Moroccan bread, our host, Mohammed (who else?) walked a couple of paces and cut a lettuce from the garden. He then went and picked a ripe orange, and made us a superb salad seasoned with oil, vinegar and lots of black pepper.

The meatballs were bathed in a really rich tomato sauce, simple but incredibly good. Time and again in Morocco, we found the fresh produce (which had never seen a refrigerated storage room or a supermarket chiller) intensely flavoured and ripened to perfection. Even the meat always looks good, and you can see which part of the beast it has come from.
After we finished our meal, Mohammed asked us if we'd like to see a special place. Why not? So we followed him into his orchard where two pomegranate trees meeting overhead formed a shady spot. "Would you like to have a siesta here?" he asked, indicating the large mat under the trees. Alas, we didn't have time, but we did have time to enjoy the bowl of freshly picked figs that he gave us. "I don't charge you, they are a gift because I like you". Now that is true Moroccan hospitality, and what turned a simple but delicious meal into a feast.


tiffany said...

Looks beautiful ... your blog always makes me very hungry.

Wendy Hutton said...

The meatball tajine recipe will be posted soon; I'm going to try to reproduce it for tomorrow night. You'd adore the food in Morocco. One day, insh'allah.

jamesmckillophutton said...

great post ma!

i wonder if we can get the ingredients for a north african feast in marlborough..