Posts Tagged ‘Tagine’

Morocco’s Great Spice Trade, Your Morocco Tour Guide

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

Marrakech Spice Market

The great sea voyages of the Portuguese explorers Ferdinand Magellan, who served for a while in Morocco, Vasco de Gama and the Spanish captain Christopher Columbus expanded trade routes around the world and especially the spice trade and the security of these routes was crucial. Morocco was on the route between Europe, the Middle East and Asia and therefore acquired a number of spices as Portuguese and Spanish enclaves and ports were established along the Moroccan coast.

Spices are a key element in Moroccan cuisine. Freshly ground spices in colored mounds can be spotted in all Moroccan souks. With their distinctive smells, Moroccan spices are recommended to be used after being freshly ground.  Many spices and ingredients once imported are now home grown in Morocco such as Saffron from Talouine and Cumin from Tazarine.

Moroccan Saffron

Saffron is one of the most expensive spices in the world and is widely used in Moroccan cuisine for coloring and flavor. The production of one single kilogram of saffron requires 150,000 flowers. The separating of the stamen from the purple flower is  done exclusively by women.  One gram of saffron can cost on average US$6.28 depending on quality and quantity. The world market today for spices is said to be valued at US $ 4 billion.

Other Moroccan spices used include cinnamon, cumin, coriander, paprika, turmeric, saffron, white pepper, red chili, cloves and sesame. All can be found in Moroccan souks. As of recent Morocco is now a big exporter of spices as well.  The main Moroccan spice export is Ras el Hanout which translates as the “head of shop” which is essentially a mix of over 30 spices. A Moroccan Ra el Hanout mix can be purchased or can be made along with a local shop keeper by his suggestion of spices.

Ras el Hanout can be sprinkled on chicken or fish before baking, frying or grilling. The blend of spices delivers flavor and a subtle fragrant aroma which is one of the many secrets of Moroccan cuisine. Moroccan housewives will likely have their own spice recipes for lamb tangine or couscous. The art is to develop your own spice recipes although at first you are like to follow other people’s. Spices are essential for tajines, couscous and for lamb dishes. For sweets the spice mixture bssibissa kakalu is high recommended.

Spices can be derived from a dried seed, fruit, root, bark, or vegetative substance primarily used for flavoring, coloring or preserving food. Sometimes a spice is used to hide other flavors. They can have medicinal properties, garlic for instance can be an antibiotic.

In the Middle Ages spices were prized because refrigeration did not exist and therefore dried and salted meat became extremely dull fare. Spices brought to life the taste of food and inspired to otherwise less interesting dishes.

Moroccan cuisine has become increasingly popular with Moroccan restaurants springing up all over America and Europe and throughout the Middle East.

A combination of targeted publicity, excellence and a number of distinguished cookery authors such as the renowned American cookery expert Paula Wolfert, have encouraged this popularity along with tourists who have been inspired to try their hand at cooking Moroccan dishes at home. Spices are part Morocco’s international success story as a diverse and fascinating places to visit for those who are foodies and have a penchant for exotic cuisine.

Written by Colin Kilkelly

For more information about the Spice Trade or Cuisine Tours to Morocco 

Morocco’s Imperial CitiesSeaside Resorts,Sahara Desert,Berber villagesA Taste of MoroccoMagical Kasbahs, Ruins & WaterfallsAbsolute Morocco, The Best of MarrakechFes, and Ouarzazate

Discover The Best of Morocco - Travel Exploration
Travel Exploration specializes in Morocco Travel.  We provide Tours and travel opportunities to Morocco for the independent traveler and tailor-made tours for families and groups with a distinctly unique flavor. From Morocco’s Seven Imperial Cities, to the Magical Sahara Travel Exploration offers a captivating experience that will inspire you. At Travel Exploration we guarantee that you will discover the best of Morocco! Call Travel Exploration at 1 (800) 787-8806 or + 1 (212) 618882681 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.


Bread Baking Tour To Morocco’s Middle Atlas Mountains With A Berber Family

Friday, March 27th, 2009


Akin to Spain, bread  in Morocco is a key component of any Moroccan diet. There is an ancient proverb, “manage with bread and butter until God sends honey”. This ancient saying affirms that there is availability of bread to all groups in Morocco. For example, the Berbers of the Rif Mountains sustained themselves with bread made from Barely. While present times afford more variety in Moroccan’s diets and bread can be supplemented with potatoes, tomatoes, pepper, fruit or nuts, bread still plays an important role in the lives of Moroccans.  In cities, Moroccans can be spotted daily in the early parts of the morning carrying bags of assorted breads that they picked up at the market. In villages women can be found baking bread from scratch in earthen ovens.


Traditionally, Moroccans eat three meals a day, with lunchtime remaining the most important as all family members still come home from school or work to eat together.At each of these meals, one person is designated to distribute the bread. 

Community Ovens

Historically, bread has played such an important role in the life of Moroccans. Until the 1980’s, almost all Moroccan families made their own bread. The Moroccan child wearing a padded hat would walk to the Fran, carrying a gssa or a red pan filled with yeast on top of their heads. Frans, strategically located community ovens, were found in every neighborhood, and baked dozens of loafs at once. These Frans can still be found and are utilized by the Fassis (local people) in the old Medina of Fes. As there were so many breads baking together, anything placed in the oven was marked with a rubber stamp.

Buying Bread

Today, a faster paced lifestyle in Morocco and an increasing number of households having two working parents has resulted in less use of the Fran. Regardless, if you find yourself being one of the lucky visitors to receive a dinner invitation from a native Moroccan, rest assured that the bread you try will be delicious. Enter any souk during the morning (a Moroccan shopping street in the medina) and you will surely feel a longing to come face to face with the mouthwatering aromas traveling through the air and playing flirtatiously with your sense of smell.  

Bread Types 

Upon entering a bakery, you will be confronted with many choices of breads usually made from coarse barely, flour, wheat, sorghum, or millet. The bread bakers are usually women who are expert in kneading the dough until it is evenly distributed and enriched with herbs, spices, proteins, and other goodies. The breads come in many shapes, sizes, and forms. Some are leavened and others are flat and thin, being shaped into long and crispy donuts or Therfist -unleavened bread in sheets. The most common breads are heavy, spicy, soft crusted and highly absorbent as they are meant to be dipped into a Tajine or Tagine, a traditional stew or sauce. Examples of such breads include Tagella, a special bread made by the Tuaregs of the Sahara or ‘Blue people’. The bread is baked on hot sand. Also popular is Khboz Milka-a flattened circular dough cooked until brown on both sides. If you would like to enjoy an everyday bread, try your hand at Batbout. This tasty bread, best described as a soft chewy bagel or a thick pita, is eaten everyday expect during Ramadan. Some of the most exotic bread making experiences can be found in Morrocco’s Middle Atas Mountains with Berber families.


There is an ancient tradition of bread baking on rocks that dates back centuries and is still common among Berber families today. The process begins with the kneading of dough until it is brick-thick and then stuffing it with fresh herbs, fat, spices and chilies. Once the bread has been stuffed, it is placed on a round, short stack of rocks that have been heated evenly by brush fire. The bread is then covered with brush which is burned. Within 20 minutes after it is completely cooked, the brush is cleared off. The bread is then cooled with a whisk and served amidst mountain views and clear skies. This type of thick and wonderfully hearty dish – Berber Mountain bread- is akin to the taste of stuffed pizza.


The bread is traditionally made by those Berbers of the Middle and High Atlas, who still retain a Nomadic lifestyle. For those who want to participate in this unique bread making experience it can be included as part of a tour in Southern Morocco whereby one discovers ancient Kasbahs, the Draaa Valley and life in a Berber village through Travel Exploration. 


Travel Exploration specializes in Morocco Travel. We provide Tours and travel opportunities to Morocco for the independent traveler and tailor-made tours for families and groups with a distinctly unique flavor. From Morocco’s Seven Imperial Cities, to the Magical Sahara Travel Exploration offers a captivating experience that will inspire you. At Travel Exploration we guarantee that you will discover the best of Morocco! Google on call Travel Exploration at (917)703-2078 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.