The gold of arganeraie 33 Moroccan recipes based on argan oil

The gold
of arganeraie
33 Moroccan recipes
based on argan oil
Michela Lenta
In collaboration with
Simone Beccaria, Serena Milano, Bianca Minerdo
Edited by
Grazia Novellini
Illustrations, layout and design
Mauro Olocco
Printed by
La Stamperia – Carrù (Cn)
For the help in compiling this book,
the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity would like to thank
Suad Aghla
Aisha Ibnou Al Kadi
Touria Laassouli
Gad Azran
Choumicha Acharki
Meryam Cherkaoui
Khaltuma Zitouni
02/2008 – On recycled paper (Cyclus Offset)
This recipe book has been produced
thanks to the support and collaboration of:
meat dishes
Couscous / Choumicha Acharki
Couscous and milk / Aisha Ibnou Al Kadi
Couscous with vegetables and meat / Suad Aghla
Couscous with eggs and onions / Suad Aghla
Smooth mushroom soup with brick stuffed of dried meat and onions/
Pigeon soup / Choumicha Acharki
Orkimen soup / Aisha Ibnou Al Kadi
Meat and vegetable tajine / Khaltuma Zitouni
Tajine of kid with zucchini and pinenuts / Gad Azran
Beef tajine / Aisha Ibnou Al Kadi
Chicken and pumpkin tajine / Choumicha Acharki
Roast kebabs / Aisha Ibnou Al Kadi
Chicken and pumpkin / Choumicha Acharki
Taachat / Choumicha Acharki
Meryam Cherkaoui
fish dishes
33 Bouzruk / Aisha Ibnou Al Kadi
34 Scallop carpaccio with topinambur purée and beetroot chantilly / Meryam Cherkaoui
35 Crunchy asparagus and seabass / Gad Azran
36 Chermoula / Choumicha Acharki
36 Spicy vinaigrette / Meryam Cherkaoui
38 Carrot and banana salad / Choumicha Acharki
38 Sweet potato salad / Choumicha Acharki
39 Semolina and pomegranate salad / Choumicha Acharki
39 Granada salad / Choumicha Acharki
41 Amlou / Choumicha Acharki
41 Bsis / Aisha Ibnou Al Kadi
42 Sweet couscous
43 Seffa couscous with exotic fruits Gad Azran / Gad Azran
43 Seffa couscous with almonds / Choumicha Acharki
44 Dates filled with cheese and walnuts / Choumicha Acharki
44 Ishfanj / Touria Laassouli
44 Chocolate zabaglione / Meryam Cherkaoui
45 Amlou ice cream / Meryam Cherkaoui
45 Vanilla caramel / Meryam Cherkaoui
45 Dacquoise / Meryam Cherkaoui
Piedmont Region for Moroccan women
In supporting the Slow Food Foundation’s project, the Piedmont Regional Authority aims to promote a number of
women’s cooperatives producing argan oil in the Moroccan provinces of Agadir, Taroudant, Chtouka, Tiznit and Ait
Argan is an endemic shrub which only exists on the southern coast of Morocco, whose berries provide an oil similar
to olive oil but with a delicate almond flavor. It has always been a basic part of the cuisine of the Berbers, a nomadic
people already present in North Africa before Arab settlement.
Appreciating this product and using it through these recipes not only enables us to better value and understand
Moroccan culture. It also helps development efforts for a group of women living in a challenging area of this
magnificent country.
Supporting argan oil and its many uses – from cuisine to cosmetics and natural medicine – has the added benefit of
maintaining an ancient, mainly female tradition which has been handed down from mother to daughter through age
– old rituals.
We hope that the results achieved through our support to date can boost cooperative relations between Piedmont and
Morocco and be the basis for greater mutual social and cultural understanding. In contributing to the defense and
promotion of local food traditions, this initiative will also be an important factor in developing the economy of the
Mercedes Bresso
President of the Piedmont Regional Authority
Argan oil – all the implications of biodiversity
Argan oil, a Presidium since 2002, is one of the first non-European products Slow Food focused its efforts on. As far
back as 2001, a producer cooperative received the Slow Food Award for the Defense of Biodiversity, before the oil
became the subject of international attention and the number of argan oil producing companies proliferated.
It was a far-sighted and perceptive decision to make the award to the argan producers. Not only did it accurately see
the social value of their work and the positive effects that could flow to the whole region, but it also recognized the
product’s incredible potential.
Argan oil has outstanding biochemical properties, which have been comprehensively studied by Professor Zoubida
Charrouf, a partner of the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity in this project, and the driving force in setting up the
first women's cooperative. These properties make it valuable in cosmetics and a unique ingredient in cooking, as
illustrated by the recipes contained in this book. But it is in particular a strong symbol of identity for the Berber people
of Morocco. Ensuring that production is maintained means guaranteeing the survival of traditions, stories and practices
that unquestionably benefit the rich heritage and cultural plurality of the country.
Furthermore, protecting the argan forest is the only way of maintaining a natural barrier that is adapted to the
environment and an economic asset, to oppose the steadily encroaching desert. It is disturbing to see small sand dunes
taking over from aquifers which have dried out due to bores being drilled for irrigation in areas deforested to make
way for glasshouses containing citrus fruit, bananas and vegetables.
The artisan production of oil also allows groups of women from remote villages to organize themselves into groups,
access world markets and see their work fairly rewarded. Ensuring fair remuneration is a key aspect of this project,
promoted by Slow Food and its partners and funded by the Piedmont Regional Authority.
The Presidium aims to produce high-quality oil which meets proper food hygiene standards, will not deteriorate and
is the result of a production chain controlled at all stages—from harvesting to pressing and pay for the women—in
opposition to various attempts at adulteration and imitation.
Argan is now in the international spotlight, demand is increasing and the immediate risk of extinction has probably
been averted, but efforts have only just begun. The project needs to be supervised and the work of these women
encouraged and supported so they are not exploited by unscrupulous operators or pressured to sacrifice quality for
quantity. It is a particularly delicate production process, combining a unique tree, the argan, with uniquely valuable
environmental features. It would be unforgivable to think of it just as a resource to exploit and not as part of a system
which must be preserved.
Piero Sardo
President of the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity
The Ibn Al Baytar association
The Ibn Al Baytar association for the promotion of
medicinal plants was created through the efforts of
Zoubida Charrouf, Lecturer in Chemistry at the Chemical
Laboratory for Plants and Organic and Biorganic Synthesis
at the Faculty of Science of Mohammed V University in
Rabat. We asked Madame Charrouf to tell us about the
creation and objectives of the association she founded and
is President of, and to describe the characteristics of argan.
The name of the Ibn Al Baytar association derives from
one of the most illustrious botanists of the 13th century:
he was the first scholar in history to write a monograph
on the argan tree and its oil.
The organization’s objectives and priorities are:
- to promote and conserve Moroccan medicinal plants;
- to set up projects for medicinal plants;
- to promote the integration and development of rural
- make people aware of the need to conserve plants at risk
of extinction.
In addition to research activity, the Rabat University
Faculty of Science and the Ibn Al Baytar association set up
the network of the first cooperatives producing argan oil.
This initiative was proposed so the scientific research
could be followed with work to help the sociocultural
development of the women producing argan oil.
This was achieved by creating cooperatives of women
with different origins, social and cultural backgrounds,
but sharing the same geographical area and a connection
with the argan forest. Initial work focused on creating
awareness, providing information and educating people
about the value of the natural heritage argan forest and
the need to defend it.
It was necessary to teach them how to organize artisan
production of argan oil, to commercialize the product,
improve its use and consider the effects on members of
the cooperative.
Carrying out this work involved the association in other
activities which brought about improvements in the lives
of these women, their families and their villages.
The collaborative venture with Slow Food and
subsequently, with the Slow Food Foundation for
Biodiversity, consolidated the process. The project started
in 2001, when I presented the Amal Cooperative project
(Tamanar, province of Essaouira) and it won the Slow
Food Award for the Defense of Biodiversity.
From that moment on, with the creation of the Argan Oil
Presidium, there was continual promotional activity,
improvements to product quality and social conditions
through participation in Slow Food’s main events (Terra
Madre, Salone del Gusto, Origines).
The opportunity to play an active role in these big events
enabled the Presidium to develop, grow and learn. For
example, the meeting with Coldiretti, the Italian National
Farmers’ Federation, provided valuable advice about
ecotourism, and the visits made to the Presidium by
Italian experts in extravirgin olive oil, accompanied by
staff responsible for the project from the Slow Food
The argan tree
Foundation for Biodiversity, were essential in
achieving technical and production improvements
to the argan oil project.
To sum up, the results achieved by the Ibn Al
Baytar association, in collaboration with others
involved in the project are:
- most of those working on the argan project,
including donors of funds, are active participants
in the movement;
- scientific information has been obtained which
enables the propagation and regeneration of the
argan tree and the production of quality oil;
- a worldwide market with high demand for argan
products has been created and the returns for the
women producers have improved;
- the women producers are coordinated through
numerous cooperatives and membership in
various groups. Their sociocultural status has
significantly improved, enabling them to boost
their living conditions and better contribute to the
functioning of the cooperatives, the lives of their
families and villages, at local and regional level;
- a training system has been set up at all levels to
provide the necessary skills throughout the
production chain;
- numerous jobs have been created;
- the rate of planting of argan trees has been
significantly increased.
The argan (Argania spinosa [L.] Skeels) is an endemic tree in
Morocco, the second most important one in the country after the
holm oak and ahead of the thuja. It can live up to 200 years.
The argan forest extends for about 750 000 hectares, enclosed in
a triangle between the towns of Essaouira, Agadir and Taroudant.
The tree is in the Sapotaceae family and is particularly resistant
to the prevailing climatic conditions of drought and heat in this
region. It can withstand temperatures ranging from 3°C to 50°C
and needs very little rain: in fact it dates back to the Tertiary Age
and this has probably enabled it to adapt to very poor soils and
harsh conditions.
The argan grows spontaneously and abundantly in the arid and
semi-arid areas of south-west Morocco, where it plays a vital role
in maintaining ecological equilibrium and protecting
biodiversity. Furthermore, its strong root system contributes to
soil stability, resisting water and wind erosion, two of the main
causes of desertification in the region.
It is utilized in many different ways and all parts of the tree can
be used as a nutritional and economic resource.
About 3 million people depend on the argan forest for
subsistence, 2.2 million of them small farmers, and it plays a
major socioeconomic and environmental role in these
geographical areas.
The various products obtained from argan account for 20 million
working days, with 7.5 million of them being work by women to
extract oil.
The applicable legislation (Dahir or Decree of March 4, 1925 and
regulations governing agricultural practices involving the argan
tree of July 20, 1983) make it a state-owned forest with
Argan oil
extensive usage rights for local people, from the right to
gather food and wood for domestic use to the right of free
passage and access.
A victim of its wealth, the argan forest is now in a
vulnerable state due to climate change and the development
of new agricultural approaches. Exploitation of the land,
erosion, the advancing desert, removal of trees (uprooting,
felling) and their replacement by intensively cultivated crops
are attacking this unique heritage.
In less than a century, more than half the forest has
disappeared and its average density has fallen from 100 to 30
trees per hectare.
However, the importance of protecting the argan forest has
not escaped the attention of local and international
Many initiatives have been organized to protect it, develop
it and in particular, prevent its further regression, and in
1998 UNESCO and the Moroccan state nominated it as a
Biosphere Reserve.
In order to reverse current trends, the Moroccan
government, some countries and many NGOs (including the
Ibn Al Baytar association) are involved in a study program to
examine ecological and economic issues affecting argan and
the argan forest.
Argan oil is the main product of the argan tree.
It is a food and dietary oil whose many benefits make
it a valued substance in traditional medicine.
Oil is extracted following ancestral methods kept by
native women and handed down from generation to
generation over many centuries.
A mechanized method has been developed recently
which allows production of oil meeting higher hygienic
and sanitary standards, with easier working conditions
for the women who extract the oil.
“Two drops of argan oil will enhance any dish” proudly
states Gad Azran, a Casablanca chef of Jewish –
Moroccan origin.
The precious rare substance is constantly used in Berber
cuisine, often served as a condiment with a range of
dishes – salads, couscous, tajines, meat and fish recipes
and also desserts.
It is used instead of olive oil in many recipes: a
traditional snack is argan oil with bread, which is not
only served at home but also in restaurants and cafes.
This “green gold” can also be savored in amlou, a
dessert made from roasted almonds and honey.
It is inconceivable to cook fish or meat without first
soaking or seasoning it with argan oil. Vegetable dips
often contain argan oil, which is supposed to be used
uncooked but in some Berber recipes is heated. Two
tablespoons of the oil with a tablespoon of water allow
you to brown onions and prepare a sautéed mixture for a
classic tajine.
It should not be used to excess: adding moderate amounts
allows the full flavors and aromas of the original recipe to
The chemical constitution of argan oil is mainly oleic acid
(45%) and linoleic acid (35%). These fatty acids give the
oil nutritional and dietary benefits for treating
cardiovascular diseases and problems with dry or aging
Apart from its high fatty acid content, the oil also has
appreciable amounts of biologically active compounds,
particularly antioxidants and phytosterols.
Argan possesses a range of medical benefits:
- dermatological: it has nutritional and moisturizing
properties and stimulates skin regeneration. The oil is
also used to treat hair, scalp, dry skin and wrinkles. It is
recommended for treating epidermal irritations, eczema,
burns, cellulitis and chapped skin;
- cardiovascular: clinical tests have shown that taking
argan oil lowers the level of blood cholesterol (LDLs) and
triglycerides and increases the level of “good” cholesterol
(HDLs). It also prevents arteriosclerosis;
- it has additional uses in traditional medicine: argan oil
can be used to treat acne in young people, chickenpox,
and to soothe rheumatism and joint pain.
Due to its deep-rooted association with south-west
Morocco, argan oil could gain recognition as a Protected
Designation of Origin product in Morocco and
worldwide, securing intellectual property rights based on
its geographical origins.
This recognition would enable argan and the women
producing the oil to be protected against any misuse of
the name argan, food adulteration and unfair
Protection of argan oil within the PDO system would
- the name argan oil or argan would exclusively apply to
products from south–west Morocco processed using
specific methods;
- rational organization of the production chain;
- recognition and promotion of rural areas where the oil
is produced (added value for goods sold, sharing of
economic benefits among producers, exports, cooperative
organizations etc.);
- new prospects for developing tourist activities in this
area (tastings, tours, hospitality and food etc).
The argan oil Presidium
Area of production
Provinces of Agadir, Taroudant, Ait
Baha, Chtouka and Tiznit – Morocco
Presidium contact
Zoubida Charrouf
Tel. +212 37682848
[email protected]
Presidium supported by
Piedmont Regional Authority
The argan oil Presidium was created in 2002. Since then a number of activities have been developed through the
efforts of Zoubida Charrouf, local producers and the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity.
The cooperatives have been visited by various Italian oil producers and tasters: Franco Boeri (producer of
Ligurian extravirgin olive oil), Giuseppe Matticari (owner of the company Organic Oils), Mario Renna (technical
expert in oil products), Diego Soracco (editor of the guides to extravirgin oil published by Slow Food Editore).
This exchange of knowledge has enabled the Presidium to make significant progress in improving product
quality and packaging.
A draft set of production rules has been drawn up with various objectives: it aims to guarantee product
authenticity and quality, safeguard the women’s work, conserve the arganeraie (forest of argan trees), thereby
protecting the land from the advancing desert.
Between 2002 and 2008 the wholesale price has risen from 15 to 20 per liter and the retail price from €30 to 40
(it takes 50 kilos of berries and 20 hours of work to produce half a liter of oil).
But economic data are not the most significant aspect of the project. What has really changed in recent years is
the social role of the cooperatives and the women. Harvesting the berries, breaking the shells and extracting the
oil are above all an opportunity for social interaction: the women get together, attend courses, learn to read and
write. They make bread and craft products together.
Some Presidium coordinators have begun to travel, presenting the product in Paris, Monaco, Montpellier, Bilbao,
Turin, and Caltanissetta, meeting distributors, restaurateurs and other producers. The Presidium now
communicates with numerous institutions, such as universities, chambers of commerce and ministries. The
international press has written articles about their situation and photographers, journalists, TV crew, university
students and tourists have come to Morocco to visit the cooperatives and learn more.
With the help of two projects funded by the Piedmont Regional Authority between 2005 and 2008, technical
experts have been sent to improve the production process and training courses have been organized for the
women. As part of the project, the Piedmont section of the Italian Federation of Farmers is helping the Moroccan
women to develop agritourism ventures and sustainable tourism: Pierangelo Cena, President of Terranostra
Torino (an association for agritourism, the environment and land) visited Morocco to analyze the local
possibilities and representatives of the Presidium had work experience and training at Piedmontese agritourism
In recent years the argan oil Presidium has been the subject of several degree theses, articles, film documentaries,
features, and not least, this cookbook.
All these activities have been made possible thanks to significant financial, professional and voluntary support,
coordinated by the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity.
Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity
Slow Food has created the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity to organize and fund
projects that defend our world's agricultural biodiversity. The Foundation works to promote
sustainable agriculture that respects the environment, the cultural identity of local people,
and promotes animal well-being. The Foundation believes in the rights of single
communities to determine what they will cultivate, produce, and eat.
Founded in 2003 with the support of the Region of Tuscany, the Slow Food Foundation for
Biodiversity organizes and funds projects that defend our world’s heritage of agricultural
biodiversity and gastronomic traditions: the Ark of Taste, the Presidia and the Mercati della
These projects are being developed on all five continents, in over 50 countries (from
Switzerland to Guatemala), but the most significant economic contribution occurs in the
world's less-developed nations.
The principal project of the Foundation, from an economic and organizational point of view,
is that of the Presidia. There are now over 280 presidia in 37 countries, which were created
to protect small producers and to preserve the quality of artisanal products. Thanks to the
initiatives of Slow Food’s network of members, leaders, researchers, writers, chefs and
producers, the Foundation is able to help improve production techniques, come up with
new products or new ways to use products and find local and international markets for then.
The Foundation’s second important project is the Ark of Taste, the catalogue of quality
food products that are at risk of extinction. Through the research of experts from all over
the world who are integral to our 18 national commissions, over 700 products in 50
countries have been chosen for the Ark.
The Slow Food Foundation also promotes the exchange of information and knowledge
between members of different food communities through participation in Terra Madre.
Terra Madre is an event held in Turin every two years and is attended by 5,000 producers
from 130 countries.
The last challenge for the Slow Food Foundation is to reduce the number of intermediaries
between producers and distributors, which will lessen the distance food travels from field
to table. The Foundation especially favors the development, diffusion and enforcement of
the relationships between the farmers’ markets of the world.
The word kuskus (couscous in French and English) is used to both describe a variety of durum wheat semolina
obtained after various phases of processing, and also the many recipes – with sweet or savory seasoning, with
meat, fish or vegetables – which are based on it.
With the spread of ethnic cuisines, people in Europe have become familiar with this product. It is frequently
offered on restaurant menus and is readily available on the market, often in canned semi-processed form.
In the past, however, couscous was only known and cooked in a few coastal areas of Italy and Spain. Here they
were more accustomed to foreign practices than elsewhere, or were more likely to have adopted them due to
historical circumstances. They assimilated them into their own customs, and reinterpreted them in local fashion.
With the continuous flow of commercial and cultural influences from the Maghreb and Near East, couscous has
for a long time been a popular dish in Sardinia (where it is generally called cascà), on the Livorno coast, in the
north west corner of Sicily (cùscusu) and in the old kingdom of Al Andalus, in Spain.
But the exact chronological and geographical origins of this food, associated with the Arab world, are uncertain.
One of the first references to a dish based on a starchy food similar to couscous appears in an anonymous
Hispano-Muslim text dating back to the 13th century, where a recipe is described as well-known throughout the
world. In addition to other recipes of related origin, a similar food is cited as noble in a poem by the qadi
(magistrate) of Granada, Abu ’Abd Allaah bin Al-Azrak, confirming its spread among the aristocratic classes. But
attributing its invention to the Arab communities in Spain does not seem a persuasive argument since, as is
frequently the case, the written documents are not a proof of actual origin. The documents merely indicate that
in the 13th century the product had traveled beyond its national boundaries. As far as etymology is concerned,
the word is probably linked to the Berber k’seksu (hence Arabic kaskasa, “to reduce to powder, to pound”), and
would suggest a Maghreb origin to preparation of the food. This origin seems to be confirmed by the fact that
in Eastern Arab regions a type of couscous is called maghribbiyya (product of the Maghreb). Apart from
linguistic associations, there is also archeological evidence: in the Medieval layer of the Algerian city of Chellala,
vessels of uncertain date have been found which strongly resemble present day couscous pots.
In the past couscous was, and is still today, one of the basic Maghreb foods both for daily family consumption
and for religious use. For example, it was distributed as an offering to the poor for sadaqa (charity) and
considered a part of baraka (divine benediction): while preparing the food women had to recite incantations to
drive away evil omens.
When preparing couscous it is necessary to follow the traditions and use suitable utensils. The first thing needed
is a large terracotta container where the semolina is washed by hand until it forms grains. The second is the
traditional couscous pot, composed of two stacked containers: the lower one holds water with seasoning or
stock to boil with meat and vegetables; the upper one, with a perforated bottom, holds the semolina which is
slowly cooked in the steam.
Couscous and milk
Choumicha Acharki
Aisha Ibnou Al Kadi
For 8 people
For 4 people
1 kg durum wheat semolina, a handful of wheat flour
200 ml extravirgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
400 g cooked couscous
1⁄2 liter milk
4 teaspoons argan oil
Preparation and cooking time:
1 1⁄2 hours, plus standing time
Preparation time:
5 minutes
Put the semolina on a large plate and sprinkle with a glass of salt
water. Mix by hand to moisten all the couscous grains and separate
Cover with a clean cloth and allow the couscous to stand for a few
minutes so it can absorb the water.
Fill the pan half full with water and bring to the boil.
Grease the upper part of the couscous pot with oil and add the
couscous to it. Seal the top of the pot with a cloth impregnated
with flour and water to prevent steam escaping from the sides.
When the steam has passed through the couscous several times,
remove it and transfer into a large container. Add oil and another
glass of water. Separate the grains of semolina by hand.
Leave to stand for a few minutes until the couscous has absorbed
all the water .
Repeat this operation twice until the couscous swells and is well
The couscous is left to stand for about three hours and then used
according to the desired recipe.
Add the argan oil and cold milk to the
couscous prepared by the traditional
method described above. Mix and
serve in bowls.
This recipe is used for children’s snacks.
Couscous with vegetables and meat
Suad Aghla
For 6-8 people
1 kg small grain couscous
1 kg stewing veal
150 g carrots, 150 g tomatoes, 150 g leeks, 150 g turnips, 100 g onions
2 small cups argan oil
1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, 1⁄2 teaspoon ginger
Preparation and cooking time:
for the couscous, 1 1⁄4 hours, plus standing time;
for the seasoning, 1 1⁄4 hours
Use the meat to prepare the stock for steaming the couscous.
Put the semolina to cook in the top part of the couscous pot. The top part of the pot has a
perforated base and the bottom part holds the seasoning.
Put a large wide dish on the table. Tip the couscous (already cooked for a while) onto it and mix
by hand as though kneading. Do this twice more and the third time add a small cup of argan
oil and a pinch of salt.
Put the pieces of meat in the bottom of the couscous pot. Add finely sliced onions, the rest of
the salt, the pepper and the ginger. Pour in part of the stock and add the carrots, tomatoes,
turnips and leeks, which were earlier cleaned and chopped.
When cooking has finished add the other small cup of argan oil.
When everything is cooked (the couscous cooks in the steam of the stock) put the couscous in
a large serving platter with seasoning in the center. Soak with the remaining stock and serve.
This dish is cooked on Friday, the Muslim day of collective prayer (juma’a):
it is eaten for lunch after returning from the mosque.
Couscous with eggs and onions
Suad Aghla
For 4 people
1⁄2 kg large grain couscous
3 eggs
3 onions
1 handful green olives
2 small cups argan oil
a pinch of salt, a pinch of coriander
Preparation and cooking time:
for the couscous, 1 1⁄2 hours, plus standing time;
for the seasoning, 1 1⁄4 hours
Hard boil the eggs.
Mix the couscous with cold water on the plate and place in the couscous pot.
When it is half cooked, pour onto a large terracotta dish and mix by hand a first
time, adding a pinch of salt and a small cup of argan oil.
Repeat the process a second time and when cooked, a third time, adding the other
small cup of argan oil, the hard-boiled eggs cut into rounds, the olives and the
onions, which were previously boiled in the bottom part of the couscous pot
with water and salt.
The dish is eaten with laban, the typical thick Lebanese yoghurt, whose name means “white”.
It has a sourish flavor and is often consumed with added salt. It accompanies many distinctive
dishes such as couscous or meat and vegetable dishes.
Smooth mushroom soup
with brick stuffed of dried meat and onions
Meryam Cherkaoui
For 4 people
Preparation and cooking time: 1 hour
1 kg cep mushrooms (Porcini)
1 sheet malsouka brik pastry (filo or puff pastry)
150 g onions
250 g parsley
1 sprig thyme
1 sheet gelatin
vegetable stock
1 egg yolk
60 g khlii (or thick sliced raw ham)
1⁄4 liter cooking cream
35 g butter
1⁄2 liter peanut oil, 2 tablespoons argan oil
coarse and fine salt, pepper
Brik pastry is a light pastry used in Arab and North
African cuisine for both savory recipes (made with
meat, vegetables, tuna etc) and sweet ones. You can
prepare it using the recipe on p. 35 or replace it with
filo or a normal rolled pastry.
Khlii is a method of preserving meat, usually lamb.
After seasoning with garlic, spices, oil, vinegar and salt,
Moroccan women hang it for up to seven days in the
sun to dry. They then cook it for about two hours in
lamb fat and water until the water has all evaporated.
If dry meat is not available, you can use thickly sliced
raw ham.
Cook the onions and thyme in 10 grams of butter for a
few minutes on low heat. Add the mushrooms and
brown them well. Moisten with the vegetable stock,
season and cook for 20 minutes.
Blanch the parsley in salt water. Cool with ice and
blend to a purée in a mixer. Combine the gelatin sheet
with the parsley. Moisten in cold water, transfer into
glasses and allow to stand.
Cut the pastry sheet into 5 cm squares, place some of
the onions and khlii on top and fold to form a triangle.
When the soup has cooked, blend in the mixer and add
the rest of the butter and argan oil, with salt and pepper
to taste.
For serving, heat the mushroom soup in one pan and
the peanut oil in another, bringing it to a high
temperature to fry the pastry triangles which will be
added to the soup. Finally garnish with the parsley.
Pigeon soup
Choumicha Acharki
For 4 people
2 pigeons of about 250 g each
50 g barley semolina
1 white onion
1 bunch parsley
1 bunch coriander
200 g walnut kernels
3 tablespoons cream
40 g butter
3-4 tablespoons argan oil
1 teaspoon salt, a pinch of pepper and ginger, 2 sticks cinnamon
Preparation and cooking time: 2 hours
Cook the onion in butter in a pan until clear.
Add the pigeons, spices (ginger, pepper, cinnamon), parsley and coriander. Pour in two liters of water and leave
to simmer.
As soon as the pigeons are cooked, remove them from the pan and pass the soup through a fine conical strainer.
Return the soup to the pan and add the barley semolina and half of the ground walnut kernels. Cook on low
heat, mixing occasionally until the semolina is cooked.
Debone the pigeons and chop up the meat in the pan. Mix in the cream and argan oil. Heat for two minutes
before serving, decorating with walnut kernels.
Orkimen soup
Aisha Ibnou Al Kadi
For 8 people
4 mutton shanks
1⁄2 kg spelt
100 g dry broad beans with skin
2-3 corn cobs
250 g dry turnips
50 g lentils
1 olive
1 glass argan oil
salt, pepper
Preparation and cooking time: 6 hours, plus soaking
Put the spelt in water the evening before and leave until the next morning. Do the same thing for the broad
beans, turnips and lentils.
Take the spelt, remove skin and grind in a mortar until floury. Pass through a strainer and remove the larger
Put the spelt on a baking tray and leave – preferably in the sun – until dry.
Boil the corn cobs and remove the cooked kernels.
Use a large pan to boil the dried spelt, broad beans, turnips, lentils, and corn. Add the four mutton shanks, salt
and pepper. When cooked add the argan oil and the olive.
The original recipe says you need to cook the soup on hot coals for five or six hours. The alternative is to cook
it on a wood stove. The soup should be very thick and is poured piping hot into large bowls.
The soup prepared by the Amazigh Berber for the Orkimen festival is served on the evening of December 31 to the whole
family and invited friends. An olive is put into the soup: whoever finds it is the luckiest in the group for that evening.
Tajin, tajine or tagine (the word is Berber and Arab dialect) is a meat stew typical of North African and particularly
Moroccan cuisine, which takes its name from the distinctive pot it is cooked in. The traditional pot is made entirely
of terracotta, often enameled or decorated, and consists of two parts: a flat and circular base part with low sides, and
a conical top part which rests on the other during cooking. The shape of the top is designed to help condensing liquid
return to the bottom and has a knob to enable it to be easily held. The base is used to serve the food at the table.
If you do not have a tajine pot it is also possible to use a pressure cooker, though the taste will not be as good.
However, due to the significant migration from North Africa to Europe, it is now much easier to find tajine pots in
ethnic and Moroccan shops.
The pot is traditionally heated on a coal or wood-fired brazier called a bajmar. To use a tajine in a modern kitchen you
need to place a metal mesh between the pot and the flame.
The most well-known tajine dishes are mqualli (chicken with lemon and olives), kefta (meatballs and tomatoes) and
mrouzia (lamb with plums and almonds). Other ingredients used are tuna, sardines, caramelized quince and
vegetables. Sauces and spices (cinnamon, saffron, turmeric, ginger, garlic and pepper) are added to the main ingredients
to enhance the flavor. It is then all cooked together on a low flame so the meat is tender and full-flavored.
Meat and vegetable tajine
Khaltuma Zitouni
For 5 people
1 kg meat (chicken, goat or lamb) or fish
1 onion, 300 g carrots, 300 g potatoes
300 g tomatoes
2 handfuls green olives
a pinch of saffron
1 small cup argan oil
salt, pepper
Preparation and cooking time:
1 hour and 40 minutes
Heat the argan oil in the tajine pot. Add the meat or
fish and brown with half an onion, the pepper, salt
and saffron.
Leave on a low flame for a quarter of an hour for the
first stage of cooking. Mix the meat and add the rest
of the onion.
Clean and dice the carrots, potatoes and tomatoes.
Add all the vegetables to the meat which is
continuing to cook and is occasionally topped up
with water. Add the green olives and increase the
flame. Leave to cook for another hour.
At the end you can add a little raw argan oil.
Serve in the terracotta tajine pot with Arab bread.
All the recipes in this section contain an ancient ingredient,
This spice is extracted from the Crocus sativus (saffron
crocus), the only eatable one of the 80 in the crocus family.
Saffron is obtained from the pistils of the flower and must
be harvested by hand, which is why the cost is so high.
Apart from this, 150,000 flowers are needed to produce one
kilo of saffron and they are not easy to cultivate.
Saffron has mythical origins. Legend relates that the Greek
god Hermes happened to mortally wound his friend Crocus.
Small flowers with intense color and strong scent then grew
where his blood fell to earth and fertilized it.
Saffron was long considered a mystical spice: it was used to
dye the robes of Roman priests and Cleopatra is said to
have used it to preserve the beauty of her skin.
How can you select high quality saffron?
The main thing is to look at its appearance: saffron should
be a vivid red without any trace of white impurities.
It is better to buy it in filament form and not as powder. It
should be slightly moist and have a sharp odor with slightly
bitter aftertaste.
You can also do a tactile test: take a filament between
thumb and forefinger and immerse in warm water. The
filament should leave yellow and not red color on the skin.
Tajine of kid with
zucchini and pinenuts
Gad Azran
For 4 people
600 g kid meat (shoulder and leg)
2 liters chicken stock
1⁄2 kg small zucchini, 250 g white onions, 2 cloves garlic, 3 bay leaves
1 bunch parsley, 100 g grilled pinenuts
15 saffron pistils, 5 g powdered ginger, 5 g turmeric, 3 g black pepper
1 teaspoon salted butter, 1 glass peanut oil, 1 glass argan oil
Preparation and cooking time:
two hours and a quarter, plus marinating time
Cut the kid into small pieces and remove the fat.
Leave the meat to macerate for four hours with the ginger, turmeric,
pepper, bay leaves, garlic, butter and peanut oil.
Put the macerated meat into a pan, cover with the chicken stock and
bring to the boil. Lower the flame and cook for at least two hours.
In the meantime wash and cut the zucchini in two and finely slice the
After 30 minutes cooking, add the onions and saffron to the meat and
10 minutes later, the zucchini. Finish cooking on a low flame.
Place the meat, vegetables and pinenuts on a serving dish. Add the
argan oil and decorate with parsley.
Beef tajine
Chicken and pumpkin tajine
Aisha Ibnou Al Kadi
Choumicha Acharki
For 4-6 people
For 4 people
1 kg beef (shoulder)
250 g onions
1 glass argan oil
1 tablespoon ginger, a pinch of saffron
salt, pepper
1⁄2 kg chicken breast
1⁄2 kg pumpkin
100 g cherry tomatoes
1 onion, 1 sprig parsley
4 tablespoons argan oil
1 teaspoon salt
a pinch of pepper, ginger and saffron pistils
Preparation and cooking time:
1 hour and 40 minutes
Pour the argan oil into the terracotta pot. Add the
meat cut into pieces and brown in the oil for five
minutes. Add previously cleaned and cut onion,
a pinch of salt, the ginger, saffron and a pinch of
As the meat gradually cooks at low heat, add
water: the tajine is the typical Moroccan meat
stew. The recipe can be enhanced by adding
green olives, boiled peeled almonds (200 g) or
Preparation and cooking time:
2 hours
Cut the chicken breast into medium-large pieces.
Pour two tablespoons argan oil into a pan and brown
the finely sliced onion for five minutes. Add the diced
chicken, spices (pepper, ginger, saffron) and parsley.
Add a glass of water and cook on a low flame for 10
Dice the pumpkin into pieces the same size as the
chicken. Add them with the cherry tomatoes to the pan
and cook on higher flame for 15 minutes.
As soon as the sauce is a creamy consistency, turn off
the heat.
Arrange the diced chicken, pumpkin and tomatoes on a
dish. Cover with the sauce and complete with two
tablespoons of argan oil before serving.
meat dishes
Roast kebabs
Chicken and pumpkin
Aisha Ibnou Al Kadi
Choumicha Acharki
For 4-6 people
For 4 people
1 kg meat (can be mixed)
1 liter argan oil
cumin, ginger, coriander, peppercorns
8 chicken thighs
1⁄2 kg pumpkin
1 onion
6 tablespoons argan oil, 1 tablespoon extravirgin olive oil
2 pinches saffron pistils, 1 pinch mace and salt
Preparation and cooking time:
1⁄2 hour, plus marinating time
Preparation and cooking time: 1⁄2 hour
Mix the argan oil with the spices
(cumin, pepper, ginger, coriander) and
leave the meat to soak all night.
Prepare the meat kebabs the next day.
Cook on the grill for about 10 minutes,
brushing with the gravy from soaking
the meat.
Finely slice the onion and brown with the chicken thighs in
extravirgin olive oil for 10 minutes on a low flame.
Put the spices in a glass of water and use to moisten the chicken.
After boiling five minutes add the pumpkin diced in mediumlarge pieces. Cover and finish cooking.
Season with the argan oil and serve immediately.
Mace is a spice from the same plant (Myristica fragrans, originally
from the Molucca Islands) which provides nutmeg: this is the seed while
mace is obtained from the surrounding reddish husk. It is used for
savory dishes, in liqueurs and for preparing mixtures of spices,
including curry.
Choumicha Acharki
For 4 people
For the dumpling
1⁄2 kg wholemeal wheat flour
200 g corn flour
For the sauce
1⁄2 kg lamb
5 cloves garlic
1⁄2 teaspoon saffron filaments, 1⁄2 teaspoon powdered ginger
1 glass argan oil, 100 g oudi (clarified butter)
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
Preparation and cooking time: 1 1⁄2 hours
Oudi is an ingredient of taachat and many other dishes. It is a butter without milk whey (the liquid obtained
after coagulation of milk). It can be kept and does not go moldy, change flavor or aroma. To prepare it you melt
butter and leave to stand until it goes hard. You then remove the upper part, eliminate the white liquid settled
on the bottom of the container and finally melt the butter again. If desired you can add a pinch of thyme to give
Put the diced meat in the base of a couscous pot, and brown on a low flame in argan oil and clarified butter. Add
the whole cloves of garlic, saffron and ginger. Pour in 1 1⁄2 liters of water and remove half of the sauce when it
boils. Cover the pot and leave to cook on a very low flame.
Mix the two types of flour in a large vessel and knead with the sauce taken from the couscous pot until you get
a friable dough. Use this to make fairly large dumplings with a hole in the middle. Cook them in the top part of
the couscous pot in the steam of the remaining sauce.
As soon as the meat is cooked and the dumplings are firm, stop cooking.
Arrange the dumplings in a serving dish and moisten with the remaining sauce. Place the pieces of meat and
cloves of garlic in the center of the dish. Serve immediately.
This recipe is typical of the Taliouine region. It can also be used for free-range chicken (beldi).
Traditionally the dumplings are cooked with the sauce in the same pot. In this case the dumplings are put on sticks placed
on the meat like a grill, and left to cook. The holes in the dumplings allow the sauce to soak in.
fish dishes
Aisha Ibnou Al Kadi
For 4 people
1⁄2 kg mussels
250 g turnips, 2 tomatoes
2 tablespoons argan oil
salt, pepper, red pepper
Preparation time:
45 minutes, plus soaking
Soak the mussels in water
all night.
Drain next day and cook for
1⁄2 hour in a pan with the
argan oil, salt and pepper.
Add the turnips and
tomatoes, cleaned and cut
into rounds, and cook for
another 1⁄2 hour.
Scallop carpaccio with topinambur purée
and beetroot chantilly
Meryam Cherkaoui
For 4 people
Preparation time: 1 hour
12 scallops
4 thin slices of wholemeal bread
fleur de sel salt, pepper
Mix the beetroot purée with the olive oil and sherry
vinegar. Heat half, then melt the gelatin and mix with the
rest of the beetroot. Add the whipped cream and season
with salt and pepper. Mix in well and leave at least 1 hour
in the refrigerator.
Peel the topinambur, cut into pieces (not too small) and
cook in the milk with a pinch of salt.
Drain and pass through a strainer, then a sieve. Dry in a
pan; add the argan oil, chopped spring onion and salt to
Finely chop the scallops and arrange them in a rose on a
serving dish, leaving the center free. Before serving, season
with the fleur de sel salt and ground pepper.
Trickle vinaigrette on the scallop carpaccio.
Toast the slices of wholemeal bread. Heat thetopinambur
purée and put in the center of the dish. Arrange the slices
of toast on the purée with quenelles of beetroot chantilly.
For the topinambur purée
1 kg topinambur
4 glasses milk
1 bunch spring onions
2 tablespoons argan oil
coarse and fine salt, pepper
For the beetroot chantilly
40 g beetroot purée
80 g whipped cream
one third of gelatin sheet
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt, pepper
For seasoning:
1 cup spicy vinaigrette (recipe on p. 36)
Fleur de sel salt is the first of the summer. It appears in the seawater basins before they dry out completely and is also the
most expensive type of salt (it costs about 35 euro per kilo). The best and most highly regarded is the fleur de sel from
Guérande in Brittany on the Atlantic coast, but it is also collected in the Camargue and Algarve. Fleur de sel is harvested in
the form of small crystals, it has a slightly less strong effect than normal salt, is very moist and often has a distinctive slight
aroma of the sea, while some people even detect sensations of violet. It is a high quality salt with a color tending to opaque
white, a perfect match for salads and raw or steamed vegetables.
Crunchy asparagus
and seabass
Gad Azran
For 4 people
12 green asparagus of average size
480 g seabass fillet without skin
brik pastry
a few leaves of lettuce for decoration
24 coriander leaves
6 saffron pistils
oudi (clarified butter)
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt, pepper
For the argan oil vinaigrette
2 cloves pink garlic
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 glass argan oil
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
salt, pepper
Preparation and cooking time: 1 hour
The pastry used for brik, small triangles with sweet or savory
filling, is called malsouka. It is prepared by beating three eggs and
mixing with about 200 g durum wheat semolina and a tablespoon
of extravirgin olive oil. Leave to stand at least 1 hour and cook the
mixture in an oiled pan to give a very thin pastry sheet.
Clean the asparagus, scald in salt water and keep topping up with
very cold water. Dry with a cloth.
Cut the seabass fillet into 12 fingers 7 centimetres long.
Heat the olive oil with the saffron in a pan for 5 minutes and allow
to cool to enhance the flavor. Pour the oil on the fish fingers and
leave to macerate for 30 minutes with salt and pepper.
Cut the brik pastry sheets into 24 strips measuring 7 centimeters
by 10. Brush the clarified butter onto the pastry strips.
When the asparagus is dry, roll into the brik pastry, leaving the tips
Drain the fish fingers, keeping the saffron oil for decoration. Place
on two coriander leaves and roll into the brik pastry like cannoli.
Cook the asparagus and fish fingers in a non-stick pan and season
with pepper and salt.
Prepare a serving dish with a little salad, arrange the asparagus and
fish on it.
For the vinaigrette, finely slice the cloves of garlic and mix with the
other ingredients in a suitable vessel or a mixer. Serve with the
asparagus and seabass in brik pastry.
Spicy vinaigrette
Choumicha Acharki
Meryam Cherkaoui
4 glasses argan oil
2 glasses sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon mustard relish
1 tablespoon wasabi
salt, pepper
cloves garlic
bunch parsley
tablespoons coriander, 1 teaspoon cumin
teaspoon paprika
tablespoons argan oil, 4 tablespoons vinegar
teaspoon salt, 1⁄2 teaspoon pepper
Preparation time: 1⁄4 hour
Preparation time: 3 minutes
Chop up the cloves of garlic, coriander and parsley.
Put the chopped mixture in a dish. Add the argan oil,
vinegar, salt and all the spices (cumin, paprika,
pepper). Mix carefully.
Sherry vinegar, wasabi and the relish give this
sauce a special flavor and it is very quick and
easy to prepare: you just need to mix the
ingredient well.
Chermoula is a typical Moroccan sauce mainly served with
grilled fish. It also goes well with other dishes due to its
harmonious blend of flavors and aromas. It only takes 15
minutes to prepare and can be kept up to 2 weeks in a
Sherry vinegar is considered the finest Spanish vinegar.
Its preparation involves treating sherry with vinegar
bacteria and holding in wood vats. It has a distinctive
aroma with a vinous background, on the palate it has an
acidic flavor with strong sherry sensations.
Wasabi is a green paste with spicy flavor obtained from
the rhizome of the Wasabia japonica, a plant in the
Crucifer family.
Carrot and
banana salad
Sweet potato salad
Choumicha Acharki
Choumicha Acharki
Per 4 persone
350 g carrots
2 bananas
8 walnut kernels
1 tablespoon grated coconut
For the sauce:
1 tablespoon argan oil,
1 tablespoon extravirgin olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon liquid honey
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
Preparation time: 35 minutes
Clean and julienne the carrots. Peel the
bananas and cut into rounds. Chop the
walnut kernels.
Mix together the carrots, bananas,
grated coconut and chopped walnut
kernels in a bowl.
Carefully mix all the ingredients for
the sauce in another container.
Season the salad and arrange on plates
or in half coconut shells. Serve fresh.
For 4 people
1⁄2 kg sweet potatoes
3 cloves of garlic
1 hot pepper
1 bunch parsley, 1 bunch coriander,
1 teaspoon sweet red pepper powder, 1 full teaspoon cumin
1 pinch saffron pistils
4 tablespoons extravirgin olive oil, 2 tablespoons argan oil
1⁄2 teaspoon salt, 1⁄2 teaspoon pepper
For the sauce:
1 tablespoon argan oil, 1 tablespoon extravirgin olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon liquid honey, 1⁄4 teaspoon salt
Preparation and cooking time: 45 minutes
Peel, wash and cut the sweet potatoes.
Crush the garlic and sauté in the olive oil for three minutes. Pour
1⁄2 liter water into the pan and when it boils add the sweet
potatoes, parsley, hot pepper and spices (coriander, cumin, sweet
red pepper). Cover and leave to simmer on a low flame.
Mix the ingredients for the sauce separately.
When cooking has finished, remove the bunches of parsley and
coriander. Serve the sweet potatoes covered in sauce in a salad
bowl and flavor with the argan oil.
Semolina and
pomegranate salad
Choumicha Acharki
For 5 people
350 g barley semolina
50 g toasted pinenuts
50 g toasted walnut kernels
200 g pomegranate seeds
4 tablespoons honey
4 tablespoons amlou (recipe on p. 41)
50 g butter thyme flavored oudi (clarified)
2 tablespoons argan oil
Preparation time: 1⁄2 hour
Prepare the oudi butter as described in the
recipe for taachat on p. 32.
Mix the hot semolina with the oudi butter
and argan oil in a bowl. Leave to stand.
Add the pinenuts, chopped walnuts and
pomegranate seeds. Arrange on a plate and
serve the salad with honey and amlou.
The barley semolina can be replaced by
precooked wheat.
Granada salad
Choumicha Acharki
For 4 people
2 lettuce hearts
2 grapefruits, 1 avocado, 2 pomegranates
lemon juice
250 g raw crab meat
For the sauce
1 tablespoon argan oil
grapefruit juice, sugar, salt
Tempo di preparazione: 1⁄2 hour
Dice the grapefruit and avocado: drip the latter with
lemon juice.
Place the lettuce hearts, grapefruit pieces, diced avocado
and crab meat on a plate. Sprinkle with the
pomegranate seeds. After carefully mixing the
ingredients, season with the sauce and serve the fresh
The sauce is prepared by mixing argan oil and the juice
saved after cutting the grapefruit, sugar and salt.
The name of this salad derives from the fact that in the 7th
century AD the Arabs brought the pomegranate, an ancient
symbol of fertility and riches, to Spain and dedicated the city
of Gharnada to the plant. After the Reconquista in 1492 the
city’s name was changed to Granada, the Spanish word most
similar to the Arab name, which means pomegranate, still the
symbol of the city.
Almonds, dates and honey – and in this case argan oil – are ingredients frequently used to prepare Moroccan
They are usually accompanied by sweet mint tea.
The drink is not only served at the end of a meal but also at various times of day: in the morning it is a light
infusion of a few tea leaves and a lot of mint; from 11 onwards it finds its full aroma, while the afternoon tea
can be considered strong since it has to perform its function as a digestive beverage. This is necessary for a
cuisine like Moroccan cuisine which is rich, generous and spicy.
To prepare a good mint tea, put two tablespoons of tea, a tablespoon of dried mint and 100 g sugar in a teapot
with boiling water.
Cover and allow to infuse for 5 minutes.
Mix, taste and add, according to tradition, a bunch of fresh mint.
Serve in small tea glasses by pouring the tea from a height so it foams on the surface.
Choumicha Acharki
Aisha Ibnou Al Kadi
For 4 people
For 4 people
1⁄2 kg almonds
1⁄2 kg honey
1⁄2 liter argan oil
2-3 pinches cinnamon powder (optional)
150 g dried jujubes
argan oil
Preparation time: 1⁄2 hour
Preparation time: 1⁄4 hour
Grill the almonds in a pan on a low flame and
grind. While or after grinding the almonds,
gradually add the argan oil. Sweeten with the
honey, stirring to obtain a homogenous mix,
which can be flavored with cinnamon if wished.
Put in a bowl in the center of the table where all
the dinner guests can reach it.
The amount of honey can be varied according to
Amlou is a traditional Moroccan spread. It can be
served at any time of day: breakfast, as a
children’s snack, or as a dessert at the end of a
It is usually eaten spread on slices of homemade
bread, but alternatives could be crêpes, muffins,
or pancakes.
In Morocco it is said to have aphrodisiac, tonic
and stimulant properties.
Crush the jujubes in a mortar until they are like flour.
Pass the flour through a sieve and pour into a pan with
the argan oil. Mix to a dense workable paste.
Roll the paste into a cylindrical shape. Cut into slices.
Serve on a plate accompanied by mint tea.
The recipe, typical of Tafraut, is made when guests are invited
or it is used for the baptism ritual, when it is the present offered
by a mother to her child. It can also be prepared in a «liquid»
version: it is spread on bread for breakfast or for children’s
We eat this spread for dinner after a tasty spelt soup and the
girls in the family say: «this is our traditional Nutella». It is in
fact sweet and it is amazing to find it does not contain honey or
sugar. If we ask for an explanation we learn that «it’s the jujube
nut that does it».
Sweet couscous
There are many legends and anecdotes from everday life associated with the origins of this dish. Seffa couscous
(ceffa in French transliterations), meaning sweet, is couscous impregnated with fresh butter and decorated with
almonds, cinnamon, raisins and usually dates. There are many possible recipes in a range of colorful versions.
In the article “Recette d’antan” published in «Saveurs et Cuisine du Maroc» (Issue 5, May/June 2006) by
Choumicha Acharki, three different scenarios are suggested for the origin of sweet couscous.
The first one is based on unexpected guests. People unexpectedly arrive at a woman’s house for dinner. Maybe
friends of her husband or relatives. Guests are respected, they cannot be sent away even if all you have at home
is some leftover couscous and no meat or vegetables.
At one time there were no refrigerators or cold storage which now enable you to save face in these cases. So
what can the woman think up? She heats the leftover couscous, impregnates it with butter and decorates with
icing sugar and cinnamon. She then serves it, accompanied by orange flower flavored milk.
The second story tells of a particularly absent-minded and talkative woman. She leaves the couscous cooking in
the top of the pot and vegetables with meat in the base. Suddenly she remembers she has to fetch the washing
but … on the roof of the house she sees friends from other houses and begins to chat. When she remembers the
food on the stove it is too late: the vegetables and meat are burned, the only thing still alright is the couscous.
Her husband is due home soon. The woman is desperate, she doesn’t know what to make for dinner and all at
once invents seffa couscous. She takes the cooked couscous, adds butter and decorates the dish with hard-boiled
eggs, cinnamon, almonds, walnuts, dates, and icing sugar.
The third explanation: a woman has an impatient husband who one day wants to eat early because he has an
important meeting in the early afternoon and demands something straight away for lunch. The wife, who is
preparing couscous with meat and vegetables, says that the meat is not yet cooked. But the husband continues
to chivvy her. So the woman decides to serve the couscous with melted butter flavored with sugar and
cinnamon and says: «Lunch is ready, sef as you are in a hurry!». Sef in Moroccan dialect means to swallow
without chewing, it is only a small step from sef to seffa.
Seffa couscous with exotic fruits
Gad Azran
Seffa couscous
with almonds
Choumicha Acharki
For 4 people
400 g medium grain couscous
100 g Granny Smith apples (green and sour), 100 g kiwi
100 g pineapple, 100 g strawberries, 100 g bananas
100 g passion fruit, 1 bunch fresh mint
50 g almonds
2 tablespoons cane sugar syrup
50 g icing sugar
75 g melted butter
4 tablespoons argan oil
Preparation and cooking time: 1 hour and 50 minutes
Mix the couscous with half the melted butter and leave to macerate
for 1⁄2 hour.
Pour the couscous into a bowl and mix a second time with the
remaining butter, separating the clumps by hand.
Put everything into the couscous pot and finish cooking.
Cover with a moist cloth and keep warm.
While the couscous is cooking, wash, peel and cut the fruit into
small pieces. Mix with the syrup and mint – previously washed and
finely chopped – and keep cool.
Before serving, mix the couscous with the icing sugar, put on a
serving dish and mold it with a hole in the middle to hold the fruit
Decorate with grilled almonds and sprinkle with argan oil.
For 4 people
400 g cooked couscous
40 g toasted almonds
2 tablespoons orange flower water
2 teaspoons sugar
cinnamon powder
2 tablespoons argan oil
Preparation time: 1⁄2hour
Put the couscous in a large dish and
sprinkle with orange flower water .
Add the argan oil, sugar and a pinch
of cinnamon. Carefully work by
hand until the ingredients are evenly
Heap the couscous in a serving dish
in the shape of a cone. Decorate
with ground cinnamon and the
grilled almonds.
Dates filled with
cheese and walnuts
Touria Laassouli
Choumicha Acharki
For 15 dates
15 stoned dates
30 g walnut kernels
100 g ricotta or fresh cheese
80 g roquefort
1 teaspoon argan oil, salt
Preparation time: 1⁄2 hour
Mix the fresh cheese with the
roquefort and argan oil using a
whisk. Salt to taste.
Add half the chopped walnuts
and put in a pastry bag.
Fill the stoned dates with the
cheese mixture and finally
decorate with the remaining
Meryam Cherkaoui
For 6 people
For 4 people
1 kg wheat flour
30 g yeast
argan oil
Preparation time:
1⁄2 hour, plus leavening time
Mix the yeast with the flour and
enough water to make a soft, not
too stiff dough. Leave the dough to
stand for about 1 hour in a warm
Heat the argan oil in a pan on a
fairly high flame. Make balls from
the dough and fry in the oil.
In the village of Ait Baha ishfanj are
always offered to guests at any time
of day. They are also eaten for
breakfast with honey and bilna’na
or mint tea (recipe at the beginning
of this section). Mint tea is a
traditional beverage served at
various times of day and often at
the end of a meal.
1 whole egg and 3 yolks
300 g cream
125 g dark chocolate
80 g sugar
Preparation time: 1⁄2 hour
Beat the egg white until stiff.
Cook the yolks with the sugar
to get a syrup.
Meanwhile melt the chocolate
in a bain-marie and lightly
whip the cream.
When the mixer has cooled,
first add the melted chocolate,
then the cream to the eggs.
Mix together gently. Keep in
the refrigerator.
Amlou ice cream
Meryam Cherkaoui
Meryam Cherkaoui
For 4 people
50 g almond powder, 30 g ground almonds
1 egg white
40 g semolina sugar, 50 g icing sugar
150 g amlou (recipe on p. 41)
5 egg yolks
6 glasses milk
50 g sugar
Preparation time:
20 minutes, plus cooling time
Heat the milk with the amlou. Beat the
egg yolks with the sugar. Blend together
and cook as for custard. Strain the
mixture into an ice cream maker.
Vanilla caramel
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Prepare a caramel with 30 g semolina sugar.
Add the chopped almonds, then finely chop it
all with a knife when cold .
Whip the egg white with the rest of the sugar
until stiff. Add the almond powder and sieved
icing sugar.
Place in small heaps on a baking tray and add
the caramelized almonds. Bake for a few
minutes at 180°C.
Meryam Cherkaoui
125 g cream
40 g sugar
1 drop vanilla essence
Meryam Cherkaoui‘s four recipes can be combined
by alternating cups of zabaglione with the
Dacquoise and completing with a tablespoon of
caramel and scoop of ice cream.
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Heat the dry sugar to caramelize. Allow to
cool before adding the cream and vanilla.
The people who helped us to produce this book
Choumicha Acharki
Meryam Cherkaoui
Married with two children, a graduate in marketing
and communication, and presenter of a TV cooking
program on Moroccan 2M television, Choumicha is
one of the most well-known women in Morocco.
In addition she is the author of the first Moroccan
cooking magazine, Saveurs et cuisine du Maroc, and is
prompted to exclaim «I really do have cooking in my
blood». Like most girls, Choumicha began to cook at
an early age and states that her main cooking
education was from her mother.
This “family style slow food” can be seen in the
attitudes of this 34 year old from Casablanca. She
wants to revive ancient recipes at the expense of
standardized fast food cuisine which is making
inroads in Morocco, particularly among young
people. Many housewives only know the typical
cuisine of their local area, while Choumicha aims to
present the cuisine of the entire country as a
connected whole.
This will help almost forgotten recipes to revive and
local products too.
Since 2001 Meryam Cherkaoui has been owner and
chef of the restaurant Maison du Gourmet.
She trained in France at the renowned Paul Bocuse
Institute in Lyon where she attended a three year
course in culinary arts and hotel management. From
1998 she gained work experience in various prominent
French hotels such as Le Majestic and its Villa de Lys
restaurant in Cannes, the hotel de Carillon’s Les
Ambassadeurs restaurant in Paris and Les Mouettes at
Larmor-Plage in Brittany as chef de partie. In 2001 she
returned home to Casablanca in Morocco, where whe
worked as chef de cuisine at the restaurant
Aéropostale in Casablanca.
With her French husband Philippe Pesneau, whom she
met while working in Cannes, she offers traditional
Moroccan dishes with a new harmonious style in a
restaurant worthy of its name, located in the center of
Morocco’s administrative capital, Casablanca.
Maison du Gourmet
159, Rue Taha Houcine (ex Galilée)
Quartier Gauthier Casablanca
Tel +212 22 48 48 46
Fax +212 22 48 48 45
Closed: Saturday lunch time and Sunday
Gad Azran
Of Jewish-Moroccan origin, after graduating in
information technology, he worked for a long time in the
clothing sector, first in Morocco and then in France. After
a few years his job took him to the United States,
initially to Miami and then New York, where he decided
to change direction and enrolled at New York’s
prestigious French Culinary Institute ( Fci) .
Thanks to his qualification and growing interest in
gastronomy, he managed to work alongside the great 3
star Michelin chef Jean Georges.
After six years of work and, as Gad says «six years of
great education», he was responsible for opening
restaurants in various countries: Bahamas, Thailand,
Mexico and France.
In the French capital Gad met the 3 star Michelin chef
Michel Trama, who passed on to him his enthusiasm for
tradition combined with innovation.
He worked with him for two years and then decided to
return home.
His present objective is to create a restaurant in his birth
place, Casablanca, dedicated to traditional Moroccan
cuisine. He wants to maintain a strong focus on local
quality products, but not neglecting innovation and
creative reinterpretation of dishes.
Other women who contributed to the
preparation of this book:
Aisha Ibnou Al Kadi is a 60 year-old
housewife. She is of Imazighen Berber origin
from Tafraut.
Khaltuma Zitouni is 30 and President of the
Tamaynoute cooperative in Azrarague. She
learned to cook from her mother.
Suad Aghla, 34, works in the Taitmatine
cooperative in Tiout, crushing argan fruit to
obtain seeds. She learned to cook from her
Touria Laassouli, 36, is Director of the Ait
Baha cooperative. Originally from Beni
Mellal, between Fez and Marrakesh in central
Morocco, she married in the village where
she now works. Some recipes were taught
her by the women in the cooperative, others
were from her mother.
Argan only grows on the southern coast
of Morocco in a poor, arid zone with very
high summer temperatures. This thorny
tree is an amazing resource because it not
only helps to oppose the dangerously
advancing desert but its berries provide a
golden, intensely flavored oil with
hazelnut notes.
We have selected 33 dishes based on
argan oil from the cookbooks of chefs and
Moroccan families: sauces, salads,
couscous, soups, tajines and desserts.