Belen's Morocco

Post date: 12-May-2013 23:40:44

28th November 2015

Belen is one of our most talented cooks and once a year she cooks Moroccan food for us. I can honestly say I've never had such tasty couscous - in particular her vegetarian cous cous is legendary amongst the volunteers and no-one really knows how she gets it so tasty. But we all remember it and that's saying something. She was there recently and learnt to make some lovely looking pastries so we've something new to look forward to!

Here is what she has to tell us:

Ceuta – ‘Sebtah’ in Moroccan - is a Spanish enclave at the north of Morocco, just in front of Gibraltar. My mother was born in Ceuta and I as a child and teenager spent many summers there. Bordered by the sea and Morocco, the influence of the neighbour country is everywhere: food, architecture, and people.

Waking up from the siesta with the smell of hot mint tea my mother and her sisters prepared for us is a recurrent memory of those summers. It was so hot out there, and that delicious sweet tea was the only thing that would revive us. On week days, I woke up early and went with my grandmother to the market; I loved seeing the colourful fruits and vegetables original from inland Morocco, the fish, and the stalls selling spices. Some evenings we went to one of the city squares and eat Moroccan seasoned chargrilled meat brochettes. On special days, Halima would prepare a bastilla or a big tfaya couscous for the whole family.

Moroccan food is colourful and perfumed with cumin, saffron, cinnamon or fresh coriander.

Arab, Berber, and Jewish influences are present. Also Moroccan dishes can be found in today's Andalusian cuisine, influence of the times when the Moors were in Spain; I used to think my mother would cook them because of the Moroccan influence in Ceuta.

The menu I will prepare on the 28th of November includes some of the dishes I learnt from Halima when I was 16, as well as some of the Moorish starters that my mother used to cook at home.

Kemia (Hot & Cold Starters)

Moroccan salad (v) Refreshing tomatoes and cucumber salad dressed with mint.

Green beans salad (v) Spicy green beans and roasted peppers salad.

Zaalouk (v) A delicious cooked dish made with aubergines and tomatoes, perfumed with paprika and cumin.

Carrots & cumin (v) This colourful warm dish is one of my favourites. At home we always cook the Andalusian version of it.

Spinach & Preserved Lemons (v) This very aromatic dish is the spinach versions of the bakkoula salad, which is traditionally prepared with malve leaves. It is prepared with spinach, preserved lemons and spices, and served with purple olives.

Bessara Dip (v) Bessara or byssar is a flavourful soup made out of dry fava beans and spices, which is usually eaten breakfast. Here, I will prepare a thicker version that can be eaten as a dip.



Quince & lamb tagine Slow cooked lamb stew with fresh quinces.

Couscous aux 7 légumes (v) This is an aromatic couscous, perfumed with ginger, saffron and fresh coriander. It is usually cooked with beef, but we will serve a vegetarian version.

Chicken couscous One of the first couscous I learnt. It is prepared with onions, saffron, cinnamon and ginger. It is usually served with the tfaya sauce.

Tfaya (v) Rich and sweet sauce prepared with caramelised onions, raisins and honey. The addition of prunes gives a stark colour contrast against the couscous flour. This sauce is traditionally presented on top of couscous and it is garnished with fried almonds.


Moroccan patisseries.

Oranges & Cinnamon Salad.

Mint Tea.

Cost will be £45 of which £35 will go direct to Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders. Please email us in with bookings.