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​6 Vegetarian Highlights from Morocco

I’ve just come back from a week in Morocco. For me, travelling isn't only an opportunity to eat, it's also a chance to learn as much as I can about how a dish is traditionally made - lessons I can bring back to Demuths and share with students on our courses. Morocco can be a challenge for vegetarians who want to stick to the traditional fare. Often vegetable dishes are made with meat stock; other dishes are considered vegetarian if they contain no visible meat. Fortunately, French is widely spoken so it was possible to communicate that for us, vegetarian means NO meat. That often meant that the food was cooked fresh, giving us the opportunity to happily enjoy mint tea while we waited for our vegetable dish to be made. Once you get over the communication barrier, vegetarian food in Morocco is wonderful - fresh, aromatic, satisfying and comforting. And it's not all about tagines and mint tea.

6 Vegetarian Highlights from Morocco

Bread

In Morocco, the bread is fantastic. Small flat round loaves, freshly baked every day and sprinkled with wheat meal and then torn apart to scoop up a tagine. Bread also features for breakfast, again used to scoop up Amlou, a paste of ground almonds, argan oil and honey.

Harira

Harira, a thick lentil soup with chickpeas and vermicelli, is eaten as a warming snack and served with dates and a honey sweet. Hariria is served daily during Ramadan to break the fast.

Msemmen

Msemmen are Moroccan crepes, delicious with oh so sweet mint tea. They are made with a dough made of yeasted flour and semolina, cooked on a flat hot plate and layered with oil and butter. The result is a delicious flaky crepe, best served hot.

Vegetable Tagines

Vegetable tagines were different every day, and simplicity was the common thread. The vegetables were usually onions, carrots, peas and potatoes, flavoured with ground cumin, salt and pepper. A tagine is a shared dish, the larger the size, the more people dip in. They are eaten bubbling hot with Moroccan bread to scoop up the vegetables. At home I serve my tagine with couscous, but in Morocco tagines are always served with bread.

Couscous

That's not to say Moroccans never eat couscous. Couscous is traditionally served for a celebratory lunch after Friday prayers and topped with vegetables that have been cooked in the base of the couscoussier, a deep saucepan (a bourma) topped with a flat colander (a kesskess). The couscous is steamed in the kesskess over the vegetable stock and the flavour of the stock permeates the couscous. Once cooked, the couscous is fluffed up several times by decanting it into a large flat bowl and separating and aerating the grains and then returning it to the kesskess. The choices of vegetables vary. We ate couscous topped with carrots, chickpeas, and raisins, and spiced with cinnamon with a fiery red harissa and more stock to pour over the couscous.

Fresh Mint Tea

Breakfast always came with freshly squeezed orange juice and fresh mint tea. Mint tea is made with black tea and flavoured with fresh mint leaves and large cubes of white sugar. It’s a ritual to get the flavour balance of the tannic black tea, the bitterness of the mint and the sweetness of the sugar just right. The tea is then poured from a height to produce the desired froth on top of the glass. For more on this tradition, check out Urvashi's lovely post on The Art of Moroccan Mint Tea.

Here are more photos about how to cook a tagine and other Moroccan foods.

Let me know if you have any questions about Morocco,

vegetarian travel, or any of the dishes I've written about.

We're always happy to chat on Twitter and Facebook!

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