Friday, 8 January 2010

Moroccan Food

"There is a holy trinity of Tagine, Couscous and Brochette/Kebab" commented our host at the wonderful Dar Roumana a riad in Fes which I thoroughly recommend but should declare is run by a friend of a friend. The implication was that once you have got through this lot it can all get a little bit dull. I love Moroccan food but the experience of eating out in Marrakech and Fes is a mixed one.

The ingredients are wonderful. You see them all the time in the souks. Here there is real 'organic' food brought in from farms by villagers who often can't afford fertilisers to increase their yields; and whilst the butchers are not for the squeamish the meat too is marvellous.

The sadness is how many places mess it all up and it is often the smartest places that are the worst. We had a particularly bad meal at the Palais Jamai which is the grandest hotel in Fes. My starter, a traditional Moroccan soup, tasted like Knorr with chick peas and a bit of mutton floating in it. This was followed by a tagine of slow cooked lamb which had stock like sludgy Bisto and was surrounded by frozen peas. The dessert was bullet proof triangles of sticky cardboard pastry. The bill for four with a bottle of quite interesting (25% Malbec) simple Morroccan wine was 2220 Moroccan Dirhams or £178. Admittedly quite a lot of what you are paying for is the luxury surroundings (see website above) with (poor) belly dancing thrown in, but the food was lamentable.

Some of the best food we had was when we were simply eating pure ingredients, unmessed up by human ingenuitiy. We visited a village up in the hills an hour's drive from Marrakech (illustrated right) and had excellent wild honey hard, boiled eggs and bread.

In the Fes souk we tried a dozen different types of wild honey and settled on Eucalyptus. The honey was kept in big blue plastic drums and we tried all the honeys dipping in a small plastic stick. It was the honey equivalent of a wine tasting and after so many taste sensations it was difficult not to get just as confused as after sampling too many wines.

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