Travel + Food = Awesome: Morocco

I’m camped in our little double bedroom in Spalding with a cup of tea and a craving for white chocolate and raspberry cookies from Sainsbury’s. The child down the road is in the back garden screaming… I fear his lungs will have shrivelled to nothing by the age of sixteen. The sun is scorching in Lincolnshire today, as it has been for the last two weeks that we have been away, but I can’t bring myself to move from my bed following a 9 hour kitchen shift that kept me on my feet and scrubbing pots until 12AM this morning. Mike is at work and I’m going to utilise this time to remind myself of the joys of cuisine on foreign continents.


SWEET TREATS
Whilst in Morocco we visited three towns/cities and the one thing we found consistent was mint tea. Loaded with sugar, devine to the olfactory senses and cleansing after a meal laden with spices, we found mint tea even more refreshing than regular black tea. After being offered complimentary mint tea in hotel 1 (story to follow in the near future) we felt quite priviliged, only to find this was a custom when we reached hotel 2 and we were handed mint tea AND biscuits.

Moroccan biscuits came in the form of tiny cakes, macaroon type specimens and very dry shortbread type bites. I’d have loved to take a picture of the little delights however we seemed to be clearing the tray very quickly and the waiter quickly took them away for other people to try. Cakes came in an array of colours, styles, flavours, shapes and sizes but the only one I could take a picture of without having another tourists’ hand ruining the shot was a layered lime sponge cake made specially for my Dad’s 50th birthday. I don’t normally indulge in cake, I’m not really a sponge kinda gal, but it was beautifully light and refreshing.

REFRESHING BEVERAGES
After mint tea, the next big thing in Marrakech is freshly squeezed orange juice. Unaltered by extra sugar or water and readily available all over the place from as little as 3 dirham a glass. That’s about 24 english pennies (2013 exhange rate is 1GBP – 12.5DH) and it is seriously worth those 24 pennies for a welcome change to boring old bottle water (1.5 litres usually found for about 6DH).

EATING WELL IN MARRAKECH
Let me stress this… when in Marrakech, eat like the locals. It is cost effective, a hell of a lot of fun and totally the most tasty thing to do. Do not be lead to an overpriced restauant by your guide (we also did this, story to come). Just take a chance and throw yourself into the throngs of Jamaa El Fna food stalls. They’re all in one place, they’re all pretty much the same price, they’re all checked in terms of health and safety etc etc, so just choose one you like the look of. We ended up in stall 41 (after bartering for a free bottle of water to cinch the deal of our custom). We took a seat on the dodgy little table next to a big French Canadian family where the stall advertisers/waiters/harrassers gave us warm flat breads and two dips, one mild and one blow-your-head-off hot. After three children/women wandered past stuffing packets of pocket tissues in our faces and meekly asking “2 dirham?” we thought we should order before we bottled it and found the comfort of a rooftop terrace.

We ordered a portion of mixed skewers (which appeared as two lamb, three chicken, one vegetable and three beef), a chicken cous cous (a portion too large for four people let alone two and about a third of a chicken) and an extra little plate of Moroccan sausages. The family next to us also ordered too much food and gave us an extra four lamb skewers. The meal was one of the best meals we had whilst we were away, barbequed infront of you, served up in the middle of a bustling square on a warm night. The best part? It came to 150DH for everything. Just £12 for two people to eat and drink with loads left over.

Not only was the food top notch but once settled at our little table we were able to watch the world go by. Backpackers arrived at the stall opposite which boasted selling more adventurous foods such as sheep brain soup and heart skewers. Mike and I watched in amusement as people gathered around to take photos as an English girl took a mouthful, winced and then proclaimed, ‘actually, it aint that bad!’

After all the fun of a very filling meal we were asked three times if we wanted complimentary mint tea but no one understood the polite decline so we ended up swilling our mouths out with the sweetest tea we’ve ever tasted, FOR FREE.

TOURIST RESTAURANTS IN AGADIR
Everybody has it right when they say Agadir is ‘International’ not Moroccan. The French influence here is overwhelming and sometimes disappointing. Pizza joints litter the beach, with a nice big McDonalds and a Pizza Hut as a convenient taxi drop off. Don’t get me wrong I often hanker for a MaccyD’s but there just seemed to be very little Moroccan influence in Agadir. As a family we frequented La Lampara restuarant who undoubtedly supplied the best soups I’ve ever tasted and pizzas to take away for as little as 50DH (£4). The service was great and I really do recommend it.

TIP: If you’re not a fan of olives (as I am not) ask to swap the olives for hot garlic oil. Slather your fresh bread in this oil and you will not be disappointed, it’s certainly the reason I went back.

In a different league though Mike and I scoured the beach front for somewhere partially romantic but a bit adventurous to enjoy a dinner alone. We walked up and down a few times before being drawn to the blue lights of Camel’s bar and restaurant. I am so glad we did. In all honesty, I had spotted camel tagine further down the road on a different menu but at around 130DH I couldn’t happily indulge. Here however, we got a chance to try the infamous camel tagine for roughly 70DH. Mike had a mexican pizza and we planned to share to make sure we both ate if we didn’t like the camel. Truly though, the camel was lovely. It fell apart, tasted lamb-y and came with lots of veg in a little clay dish. So Mike got pizza and I got camel tagine.

I watched as it cooked away infront of me and was pleasantly surprised when our bill for both meals, bread and olives, a bottle of wine and a large bottle of water came to 295DH. Not as cheap as Marrakech stalls but totally worth it as we had an in house singer for entertainment and after dinner the arrival of traditional Moroccan acrobat-esque performers. We must have been there for nearly two hours watching people walk along the beach, being offered nuts, raisins and roses by street sellers and enjoying the warmth.

The tastes we had on this holiday were enough to spark a ravenous need to travel once again. The only thing I found myself disappointed with was the constant promise of Creme Brulees on menus but nowhere having the ingredients in stock. If you get one, count yourself lucky 😉

I know some of you have fallen in love with Morocco, why don’t you share your experiences below?
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