A Moroccan cooking lesson was one of the activities offered during a travel conference I attended in Marrakech. I jumped on the chance. I love food and I love cooking. This was the perfect chance to enjoy both.
Where was my cooking class?
The cooking class took place at Dar Cherifa restaurant. I have to say that we had a hard time finding this riad, hidden in a maze of narrow lanes in the heart of the Mouassine district of the medina. Once we crossed the door, the colours, the light and the decoration dazzled my senses.
Dar Cherifa is inside a historic riad that dates back to the Saadian era (16th and 17the centuries). You walk straight into the patio with tables. However, your eyes don’t stay at ground level. Inevitably, the saffron-coloured walls, with their intricate carving and tiles, guide your eyes to the sky. That’s right, there is no roof above the patio. Hence the wondeful light.
What is a cooking class in Marrakech like?
The class took place on the terrace. I got there a bit early, so I had time to enjoy the views both of the surroundings and of the patio down below. I also stopped to observe a couple of Instagrammers taking the mandatory pictures with floppy hats and their back to the camera.
A smiley lady led the class. She spoke in Arabic and an assistant translated into English. A long table was already laid out with the ingredients and the utensils we would need. This was a hands-on class. I love cooking, so I didn’t need much instruction.
The cook was very competent, it was like cooking with your mother. First, she showed us how to prepare the chicken tagine with clear and concise explanations. While the chicken was cooking, we peeled and chopped the ingredients for the salads. I also socialised with other participants. I came by myself and left with a friend.
We prepared some fresh and vibrant salads as well. We made taktouka with sauteed bell peppers, tomato and spices like cumin and paprika. The white cabbage and apple salad was a surprise: not too sweet, not too tangy, just right. My favourite was the grilled eggplant salad because eggplant is one of my favourite veggies.
Time flew by and when we least expected it, it was time to sit down to eat. We sat at a long table and passed around the bread and the different dishes. The food tasted very good.
They gave us the recipes whe we left. I tried to recreate the chicken tagine at home. Although I don’t own a tagine pot and used a regular pot, the result was pretty good.
Dar Cherifa’s eggplant salad (serves 4)
Ingredients: 1lb eggplant; 3 garlic cloves, grated; chopped parsley and coriander (cilantro); 1 Tb olive oil; 1/2 Tsp salt, 1/2 Tsp cumin, 1/2 Tsp paprika, 3 tomatoes, grated; 1 cup water; 1 Tsp lemon juice.
Peel and cut the eggplant into 1/4-inch cubes. Place in a deep skillet with the tomatoes, garlic, spices, olive oil and water. Cover and cook for about 20 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Add water if necessary. When the eggplant is very tender, mash it with a spoon. Add the parsley, cilantro and lemon juice and cook for another few minutes to reduce any liquids. Remove from heat. Serve at room temperature with crusty bread.