Moroccan food is the business!
We just can’t get enough of the textures, flavours and fragrances of our favourite cuisine, and often find ourselves swapping the traditional English Sunday roast for a lamb and apricot tagine back at home. Sundays are days for slow cooking after all, when we have lots of time and inclination on our hands. Both of which are needed to tackle a tagine!
We learnt our skills at La Maison Arabe’s famous cooking school back in January, under the watchful eye of Wafa (I think she had the measure of Hubbie straight away!). We spent a glorious few hours creating salads from the organic kitchen garden, discovering the astonishing range of cultural influences behind Moroccan food, and for the very first time in our lives, we talked to chicken.
It was definitely a highlight of our time in Marrakech.
So during our stay at La Maison Arabe earlier this month, we were excited (and surprised) to learn that they’ve just opened an innovative new Marrakech ‘Express’ cooking school. Designed for travellers who don’t have much time but still want to have a go in the kitchen, this is ideal for fitting in around sightseeing and souk shopping in the medina. Time it right, and it can be lunch as well!
There was just one problem.
Come and learn how to cook a tagine in under an hour!
I’d never heard of anything so ridiculous! I mean, everyone knows that tagines take ages to cook, right? Still, never ones to back down from a challenge, Hubbie and I found ourselves getting ready to chop, dice, stir and simmer until we had something near enough resembling lunch!
Unlike the main cooking school which is a 15 minute shuttle ride out of town, the Marrakech Express Cooking School is less than a minute’s walk from La Maison Arabe. Perfect if you have a schedule, and still haven’t seen quite enough palaces and mosaics to satisfy your inner explorer.
The Marrakech Express Cooking School at La Maison Arabe
After being escorted the short distance by a member of staff (they probably wanted to make sure we didn’t back out!) we were welcomed by the lovely Souad, who would be our host and translator during the class. Speaking perfect English, she chatted about the origins of Moroccan recipes, and we talked about the importance of food and family in Moroccan society. So different from back home in England where dinner is often a quick meal in front of the TV or eating out when we can’t be bothered to cook. We don’t take food that seriously, and it makes us feel a little ashamed.
All the ingredients were laid out by our individual work stations. Apparently we’d be learning how to cook a kefta tagine, something we’ve enjoyed many times but never made ourselves. If you’re a bit fed up of the standard lamb or chicken tagine, ask to try kefta, which is meatballs, tomatoes and eggs.
Whilst we were tying our aprons (I managed to put mine on the right way around this time, so proud of myself) we met our dada, Ayda. A dada is a traditional Moroccan cook who has spent years perfecting her skills, and secrets, in the kitchen. These ladies are experts when it comes to local cuisine, and what they don’t know about food just isn’t worth knowing. It was in 1999, when hotel guests started asking about the secrets behind the delicious dishes they were enjoying, that La Maison Arabe decided to open the very first cooking school in Marrakech.
Cooking kefta tagine in under an hour
Surprisingly Hubbie was quicker than me during preparation. Presumably because I took more care over grating my tomatoes, chopping my coriander and shaping my meatballs. Plus I was chatting to Souad rather than racing the stopwatch which we’d started at the beginning of the class. I think somebody wanted to set a record!
Before long, our creations began to resemble the dishes we’d eaten in restaurants and riads all over Morocco, and I’d be lying if I said we weren’t feeling just a little bit pleased with ourselves.
Finally after just 45 minutes we’d finished, unsure whether to be proud to have done it so quickly, or embarrassed that we’d just proved ourselves wrong! It turns out you can indeed cook a tagine in under an hour. To be fair, it’s more the chicken, fish and vegetable varieties that are speedy, rather than the red meat dishes. But still, very impressive! Swaggering back downstairs to the lovely little dining courtyard we settled down to enjoy the fruits of our labour, and discuss what we wanted to do for the rest of the day since it was only noon.
La Maison Arabe has always been a pioneer of hospitality and creativity in Marrakech. They’re consistently ahead of the game and willing to test new concepts, which is why with the first restaurant, first hotel and first cooking school in town, La Maison Arabe is the place to be! Taking a cooking class on holiday is all the rage at the moment, and you know us, always keeping up with the latest trends. Joining the Marrakech Express Cooking School really is a no brainer. You get to learn about a new culture through it’s food. You have fun. And of course…you get to eat!
So next time you’re in Marrakech and have an hour to spare, you know where to go!
- The Marrakech Express Cooking School costs 300 dirhams per person.
- You can make a reservation direct with La Maison Arabe.
- The class is open to anyone, you don’t have to be a guest at the hotel.
- All classes have a host to translate instructions from the dada, to answer your questions and teach you about the history of Moroccan cuisine.
- Save a little room in your suitcase for the lovely surprise gift you’ll be given after your class!
Many thanks to the lovely folks at La Maison Arabe Marrakech Express Cooking School for making learning such an enjoyable and tasty experience. Our workshop was complimentary but as always, words and opinions remain our own.