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MAISON MNABHA

antique copper water jars and cooking pots at Maison Mnabha

Morocco is renowned for the subtlety of the flavours and the balance and harmony of its food.  Ingredients and methods from all over the Mediterranean,  from Africa and the Middle East have been integrated into Moroccan cooking.  With distinctive variations in regional dishes it is however difficult to speak of a single style of Moroccan cuisine.  Cooking at Maison Mnabha centres on the freshness and quality of the local ingredients, a respect for the cooking traditions of our region both in the city itself and in the outlying countryside and an appreciation that in Marrakech food is essentially the Mediterranean diet that is now recognized as the healthiest in the world.

HOME COOKING

Cooking in Marrakech evolved in the kitchens of palaces,  in the houses of ordinary citizens and in the rural areas of the surrounding countryside rather than in restaurants.  Home cooking has always been at the heart of the life of the city so there aren't local family run neighbourhood restaurants such as you find in Spain, France or Italy.  Street food stalls abound and there are some good ones in our neighbourhood.  At Maison Mnabha we don't have a restaurant.  Instead we cook to order.  We buy the ingredients in the market in the morning, slow cook them in the afternoon and serve dinner in the evening.



Couscous has been eaten in Morocco since time immemorial and is regarded as the national dish.  In the past the indigenous rural Berbers ate plain couscous on its own.  Adding meat and vegetables was a luxury.  The instant couscous sold in Western supermarkets and familiar from recipes by celebrity chefs is precooked and takes only a few minutes to heat and hydrate with boiling water.  In contrast Moroccan couscous is cooked by lengthy steaming.  It's steamed at least three times in a special steamer and it takes around two hours in total.  The taste and texture of the steamed couscous merit the time involved.  Tomatoes were introduced into Morocco by the French colonizers in the twentieth century and are now a staple ingredient in Moroccan cooking.

Aziz, the manager of Maison Mnabha, is a particularly talented cook.  Here he is making a bastilla, a multi layered pie.  A delicious savoury filling is enveloped with three or four sheets of very fine warka pastry that is similar to but much thinner than filo pastry.  After cooking the bastilla is dusted with caster sugar and ground cinnamon.  This savoury sweet combination is a traditional city delicacy.

Marrakech has always been a city of farmers and most families retain close links with the countryside.  The fruit, vegetables and herbs  in the Kasbah market are with few exceptions locally produced and  seasonal so we cook with what is good in the market on the day.

The much anticipated cherry season in the High Atlas is an opportunity to make local quails with cherries.

and cherry liqueur

 

Pomegranate trees were planted in the Agdal Gardens in the Kasbah in the twelfth century.

Home made preserved lemons give a distinctive accent to many of the dishes served at Maison Mnabha.  Small, round and thin skinned lemons (a regional variety that is known as limoun doqq) are used by us to make the salted lemons.  From the roof terraces of Maison Mnabha  the ancient olive groves of the Agdal Gardens can be seen.   Fine local olives and fruity Moroccan olive oil  are used extensively in the food prepared at the house.  In the foreground of the photograph  preserved hot peppers accompany sun dried strips of meat [khlii]

DINNER




  

'Bissara', a Berber purée or soup made from dried broad beans.  Just before eating the bissara  the best olive oil is dribbled on to it and it's sprinkled with cumin.

Lamb shanks cooked with rosemary.  The lamb is supplied by Mostapha our butcher in the Kasbah and the rosemary is grown at the house.  Orange and chocolate dessert.

 

Dinner can be ordered in the morning.  It's served outdoors on the roof patio or terrace or indoors in the salon.  We recognize that some of our guests have particular dietary needs and we are able on request to cater for vegetarian and special diets.

  

Figs (left) are a summer treat that are served either fresh or lightly sprinkled with caster sugar from the vanilla pod jar and then baked.   'Barbary figs' (right) aren't figs though.  They're the fruit of a cactus that grows wild in the countryside.  They're sold on the streets of Marrakech in the summer.

 

All the photographs in this section were taken of food prepared at Maison Mnabha.  

    

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