Travel: Riad El Quara Marrakech Tagine Cooking Class
The thing about working, travelling and living in so many places in this life time – yes we are fortunate souls gifted with endless opportunities – you always leave a part of yourself in that city or pieces of yourself with people who become such good friends, you call them your extended family.
And Heidi Leon of AromasySabores is one of those friends I made in Macau, but she no longer lives here. She was at my Wedding two months ago and I got to see her again in Marrakech where she’s now based. We cooked together, took long walks, ate lots of local food, she taught me much about food styling and photography and the ways of positively zen living in a strange alienating place like Macao.
Heidi organised a cooking class for us at Riad El Quara which was one of the highlights of our trip! My husband lived in Marrakech before and it’s my second visit this year – so it was really fun to do something different.
You get the whole authentic experience here, the whole works including getting your charcoal stove started for the tagine. This was especially easy for me as I’m not a stickler for rules and measurements – that’s why I’m a terrible baker. But growing up in the kitchen with my grandmother and mother, I learnt to cook by intuition, it’s alot of agak agak – which in Malay means to estimate and we agak agak how much spices, sauces and condiments to add. My mother’s rule of thumb was always – if it’s too salty, bitter or sour, add some sugar, too spicy add something citrusy to neutralise the overpowering heat and it’s always worked. Always power up the wok with onions, garlic and ginger, stir fry until you get the aromas before you start putting contents in to cook.
If you go to the souks, you will find all spices in every corner and it’s the whole range we had to flavour, garnish and decorate our dish with. There were little saucers of ground ginger, cumin, tamarind, coriander, black pepper, parsley, olive oil, argan oil and cloves… all of which we sprinkled and mixed in while cooking – in an agak agak manner. At the end of the class we tasted everyone’s dishes and they were all flavoured differently because of our different cultural backgrounds and our palates, which was really interesting – mine was really bland compared to the teacher’s.
While we waited for the tagine to slow cook over the fire, we made the traditional Moroccan tomato salad… this is the teacher’s of course, I didn’t have half the skills to plate this beauty. And my own was under seasoned… this one was deliciously spicy aroma of cumin and ginger coming through balanced with the acidity of the tomatoes and sweet diced onions and fragrance of corriander coming through! Best kind of summer salads in the heat!
So proud of myself for making this homemade tagine which was actually perfectly cooked and tasted soooo good. We all put varied amounts of spice depending on our cooking habits and mine was exactly the way I liked it. One tip I found very useful is we have to make a pyramid stacking those vegetables, apart from fitting best with the tagine cover, i think it cooks everything more evenly and better that way, so slice your potatoes and carrots longer.
After lunch, we got a full course in how to brew a traditional Moroccan mint tea – the inverse way of how we brew Chinese tea. They keep the first pour which is aromatic and fragrant, for Chinese tea, we throw the first pour away as it’s to rinse out the leaves. The second pour is much more bitter so the Moroccans throw that away, but for Chinese tea, we drink that and we keep adding water till the flavour becomes diluted and we change tea leaves. Interesting how one man’s junk is another treasure – we drink in all that bitterness with Chinese tea and believe in rinsing the first round.
And while waiting for the water to boil and our lamb tagines to cook, we had some fun with photos in the cabane on the roof terrace.
What dream Mediterranean summer holidays are made of?
For more info on cooking classes as well as rooms enquiries, check out their website and their Facebook page. This riad has 5 beautiful rooms located in the medina, complete with a spa and a gorgeous rooftop terrace (where we had our cooking class).
cooking class, marrakech, medina, morocco, riad el quara, tagine, Travel