April 11, 2012 · 9:00 am
While I was in Morocco a few months ago, I attended a cooking class in Fes. Over the course of about 7 hours, we made a chicken pastilla, harira soup, beet salad, and almond macaroons. Everything was so delicious, however the macaroons were heavenly! We bought fresh almonds, boiled them, took their skins off, and then had them ground into a paste by the local baker who had a huge food processor / grinder. Then we made them into macaroons with the following recipe:
- 160 grams fine semolina
- 4 eggs
- 250 grams powdered sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup melted butter
- lemon zest
Preheat oven to 350 F (175 C). Beat eggs with the sugar. Add butter, oil, baking powder and lemon zest. Mix well. Stir in the almonds. Add the semolina and mix to make a moist, crumbly dough which is firm enough to shape into balls. Wet hands (in Morocco we used orange flower water to keep hands moist which left a subtle orange taste) and take enough dough to roll a small ball. Squeeze the dough and then form a ball. Flatten it slightly to form a thick disc. Roll the disc in powdered sugar and place onto a lightly oiled baking tray. Bake the cookies for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.. Transfer the cookies to racks to cool.
I recently tried recreating this recipe at home. I substituted flour for the semolina. I made my own almond paste by processing almonds and adding some sugar, but I also bought some pre made almond paste which I added. The texture to aim for is almost like marzipan. I made a rookie mistake however and set the oven to 175 F (I failed to convert the 175 degrees Celsius to Fahrenheit). Once I noticed that the dough was not crisp enough, I increased the temperature slightly, but I was still unable to recreate the crispiness of the macaroons I had in Morocco. Mine turned out more like cookies instead of macaroons, but even though the texture didn’t quite work out, they were still so delicious! They lasted maybe a day and a half before they were all eaten. If you try out the recipe, let me know how yours turned out!
March 25, 2012 · 2:37 pm
As previously mentioned, I recently returned from a wonderful vacation in Morocco. While in Marrakech, I stayed at the fabulous La Mamounia, which can only be described as heaven on earth. From the moment I entered the palace, I was consumed by a wonderfully intoxicating scent, which was exotic, seductive, refreshing and yet subtle all at the same time. Olivia Giacobetti, owner of the INUX boutique in Paris, one of the preeminent perfumeries, designed the signature scent for La Mamounia which showcases both dates and cedar wood, two quintessentially Moroccan elements. Luckily the hotel sold some of the custom candles (for a small fortune, of course!) thereby allowing me to bring this scent home. Whenever I burn the candle, it reminds of the fabulous time I had on that trip!
March 5, 2012 · 12:01 am
Just back from a recent trip to Morocco, I am feeling both inspired and refreshed. While there, I spent quite a bit of my time exploring the labyrinth of alleys and lanes that make up the famous souks. Craftsmen and artisans have shop after shop set up and sell practically everything – textiles, pottery, shoes, clothing, and of course, carpets. Moroccan carpets come in a variety of designs and are embroidered or woven or both. Historically, the various tribes have each created their own distinctive style. To the shopper, this basically means piles and piles of choices.
The past year or so I have been seriously lusting over the Beni Ouarain rugs, which are known for their cream/beige color and shaggy pile, however they tend to run on the expensive side in the States. Recently some of the bigger home furnishing stores such as West Elm and Anthropology have started carrying Beni Ouarain rugs as well, however the ones they carry tend to be the less traditional styles and designs. Well, with this in mind, I knew that this was certainly something I wanted to look into while in Morocco. And look into it I did! I probably went to at least 6 different shops inquiring about these rugs. I definitely found a few gorgeous pieces that had the traditional Berber designs. Unfortunately a few that I loved were still a bit over my budget. Normally I would probably convince myself to splurge in that situation, however since I have a somewhat uncontrollable 11 month old puppy at home, I did not want to get too carried away with my “dream rug.” With that in mind, I managed to snag 2 lovely Beni Ouarain’s which fit perfectly in my apartment. I also brought back a traditional Touareg rug which has the most beautiful colors.
For more information about the Beni Ouarain rugs, visit Berber-Arts or Breuckelen Berber. Also, be sure to check back on the inevitable updates such as Removing Red Wine or Pet Hair from my Beni Ouarain rug!!