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Key Ingredients of Moroccan Cuisine

by Elaine Sosa

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Moroccan cuisine is rich in spices, only natural when you consider the ages-old spice trade from Arabia to North Africa. Spices here are used to enhance, not mask, the flavor of food. The following spices are among the most commonly used.

found in bisteeya, couscous and many desserts
ground cumin is among the most flavorful spices used and is common in meats, lamb and chicken
always found in harira soup, a rich, hearty soup which is the evening meal during Ramadan
found in many tagines (stews)
popular in the dishes of southern Morocco
usually in tomato dishes and vegetable tagines
anise seed
found in breads and cookies
sesame seed
used in breads, desserts and as a garnish for savory dishes saffron
black pepper

Spices found with less frequency in Moroccan cuisine include allspice, caraway, cloves, coriander seeds and licorice. Ras el hanout is a mixture of many spices (often 20 to 30) which is used to flavor dishes as well.

Herbs also play an important role in Moroccan food, chief among them the following:

a liberal sprinkling is used in tagines
green coriander
the leaves, not the seeds, are often used in tagines to give them a unique flavor
marjoram, grey verbena and mint
often used in teas
fragrant waters
orange flower water and rosewater are used in cakes, sweets, tagines and salads

The Moroccan table also makes good use of the following ingredients:

Spanish onions are popular
often used in honey dishes to balance the flavor
especially pickled lemons
a very popular element; curdled eggs are used in bisteeya, while vegetables and chicken are often coated with eggs
used in glazed dishes, desserts, poultry stuffings and tagines
the grain as well as the dish is ubiquitous
used in hummus, couscous dishes and tagines
heavier Arab bread and the lighter pita bread are both edible and functional when eating with the fingers

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