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Archive for November 7th, 2011

Eid al-Adha

A view from the rooftop garden for lunch
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Today is Official name عيد الأضحى‎ or ‘Īd al-’Aḍḥá Also called Festival of Sacrifice, Sacrifice Feast. It is like Christmas to Christians. Today over 5 million sheep will be sacrificed and consumed for this celebration. People are happy and excited! With all things good, come the bad. Our gracious hostess chatted with us yesterday about this holiday; it seems that there is so much pressure for each family to buy a lamb (€150-300) that crime increases exponentially; people sell their necessities to be able to by a lamb and share it (like their refrigerators); the poor extend themselves beyond logic. It’s become about pride, and not the original intent of do what you can and give what you can give; but also to accept the charity of your neighbors graciously! Too bad, I almost wish I hadn’t had that conversation.
We took our last cooking course yesterday, and there were some significant differences. Our course yesterday is run within a five star Riad Maison MK (our’s is a four). Jamie Oliver filmed his Moroccan segment on the rooftop! I found this clip but only the end bit shows him cooking on the roof. there are 4 parts, I didn’t watch them all.
Our class began with a guide and the chef to the spice, vegetable and meat souks. Very cool! We bought everything for our lunch, although I suspect most of it, except the meat was for show! Both the guide and chef were amazing. We returned to the kitchen to begin. The kitchen is immaculate, stainless steel counters, polished floors. We are given an apron each and a towel. We are asked to wash our hands. We begin with the meat dish, preparing the onions first and then trimming the lamb. The chef uses an orange cutting board for meat and green for vegetables. We were given professional knives. This kitchen could be called a professional kitchen, whereas our first cooking course was more casual home cooking. We are preparing a full meal today with a trio of Moroccan Salads, a lamb tajine and Moroccan bread. Apparently there are strict rules as to what goes with what, for example Lamb tajine is always served with almonds and prunes, chicken is apricots and walnuts! We chose lamb because I NEVER cook it at home (and believe me, it doesn’t have the stinky gamieness that Ontario lamb has). The three salads are: carrot, courgier (zucchini) and aubergine (eggplant). All the salads are cooked and thoroughly flavoured with Moroccan spices. Each one is more delicious than the last. The lamb is traditionally cooked over 2-3 hours on low heat in a tajine, but because of time constraints, we cook it in a pressure cooker for 1 hour. The chef gives us the ‘readers digest’ instructions (condensed and quick), but I grill him on the traditional methods, sealing the meat first in hot oil, then adding the onions, spices, garlic etc – you know the drill! He seems impressed that I know these things. Again, thank goodness he speaks English, my French seems sub par!
The bread is next, it is made only by women. JT is not even given the choice. We take a beautiful and well used large red clay flat bowl, something like we would put under a flower pot only it’s about 50 cm in diametre. In this goes the flour, semolina, fresh yeast softened in warm water, some salt, and a bit more water. We dive in with both hands and knead until a lovely soft dough forms. This is set aside for 15 minutes to rest and rise. In the meantime we continue with the salad preparations. When the dough has rested and is doubled in bulk, we divide it into three and very carefully form it into a thin disks about 1 cm thick and 15-20 cm in diameter. Again it rests. After all the resting, we are accompanied by our lovely waiter and we actually take our dough down the street to the the baking house with the old clay ovens (the video link shows the EXACT oven we and Jamie Oliver went to!). These ovens can bake 50 loaves at once (they also roast nuts). We return to the kitchen where the chef awaits for us with a treat of spicey sorbet on a little spoon (it does have a bit of heat) and a shot glass of ananas (pineapple) juice. Refreshing and delicious! He then goes through the ceremony of tea making. He refers to the Moroccan tea as Moroccan wine more than once; it is complicated and will take one hour. It is beautiful and touching, he insists that it is better with sugar and more sugar; we decline, but he wants me to try his tea…”you see, it’s better, no?” So cute!
It’s finally a gorgeous day, about 18C and sunny, so we decide to take in lunch on the roof garden, it is simply wonderful. The food we have prepared with our expert chef is so delicious, we’re in heaven! The contrast of the serenity of this lunch to the chaos of the medina is mind-boggling. On our way out the chef meets us and as a gift he gives us his personal selection of spices (including his 35 spice mix) and all the recipes we made neatly typed out bound by a lively ribbon. I cannot tell you what an incredible experience this was. I shall surely hold this in my heart for ever!
We are so glad to have had such an incredible day; sadly it gets worse…much worse.
This is the interior of Maison MK.

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This is what’s left of the three salads, so so good!

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