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Ultimate Carb Guide for Morocco

Learning from the best.

In 2014, I came to Morocco unaware of the carbohydrate gold mine awaiting me. Fast forward three years and I can not only label all bread based carbs, I can also cook most of them. It took hard work and hours of research to get there. It required days spent in the market going from stall to stall and eating everything in my path.

Armed with a notebook, I would ask my host mom questions in rapid fire about a dish. How much flour goes in here? Does the sugar go in before the salt? How do you know when the harsha is ready? Relentless questions and multiple taste tests turned me into a Moroccan carbohydrate guru.

Fresh figs from Kenitra, Morocco, surround a slice of harsha.  The plate is adorned with a peacock - a common design found on many platters.

Fresh figs from Kenitra, Morocco, surround a slice of harsha. The plate is adorned with a peacock - a common design found on many platters.

The importance of bread.

One of the of the most commonly used words in Daarija (Moroccan Arabic), is khobz. Lubia, a white bean stew, is eaten with khobz. When zalook, a zesty mixture of roasted eggplant, peppers and tomatoes, is brought to the table, the bread follows. The khobz is cooked in rounds- never loaves.

Bread is also sacred. It is unthinkable to toss a stale crust into the trash. Why? It all goes back to the Quran. According to the Prophet, bread should never be thrown on the ground because if a beggar passes by, they will have to stoop down to get the bread. Even if someone is poor, they still have dignity. So where does the unwanted khobz go?

Most families will place a tarp in the sun and put the leftover crusts on top. The bread dries out and can be ground to make food for livestock.

Baghrir

Spongy, light and filled with holes, the baghrir is the perfect breakfast food. As the batter cooks and the pancake forms, air holes open up in the heat. These holes soak up the jam, honey or butter that is spread on top.



A mountain of baghrir rests on a plate.

A mountain of baghrir rests on a plate.

* Kaskrot is a meal eaten around 6pm. Because dinner is usually eaten around 10pm, people have a snack to hold them over until supper.

NAMEDESCRIPTION EATEN AT....EATEN WITH....

Batbout

A soft, chewy white bread served in rounds. In parts of Morocco, a stack of warm batout is placed on a platter and doused in honey and melted butter.

breakfast, kaskrot

Olive oil, amlo, jams, butter, Vache Qui Rite (Laughing Cow cheese)

Rziza

Fried dough that comes in a circular form. The disc is very stringy and pulls apart easily as you eat.

breakfast, kaskrot

Olive oil

Kalinte

A popular food in Northern Morocco, kalinte is made from chickpea flour and egg.

as a snack, kaskrot

Eaten plain

Khobz

The king of the Moroccan carb world, khobz, or translated as bread, is used to eat tajine, stews and beans. Essentially, it functions as a spoon, fork and knife with most meals.

every meal

Olive oil, amlo, jams, butter, Vache Qui Rite (Laughing Cow cheese)

What is amlo?

Made from the argan nut, amlo is a product native to Morocco. The argan trees only grow in two places. Both of these locations are in Morocco. In Agadir and Essaouira, goats climb trees to retrieve the argan nut. They crack the hard casing with ease and spit out the seed. The seed is then pressed for oil. This oil is mixed with ground almonds and honey to make amlo.

A kilo of amlo is roughly 150 Durhams (about 15 USD). If you buy outside of Agadir or Essaouira be careful. People often add vegetable oil to the argan oil to cut costs. The price is also higher- up to 300 Durhams. If you want the real stuff travel to Agadir or Essaouira and invest in a few kilos.

Rziza fresh off the griddle.

Rziza fresh off the griddle.

Msemen

Msemen is a thick fried dough that is cooked on a hot griddle. If you want to try a variation, go for msemen 3amr (stuffed msemen). This delicacy is like msemen but stuffed with sauteed papers, onions and garlic.

PRICES

1 msemen: 1 1/2 Durhams

1 msemen 3amr: 2 Durhams

Large rounds of harsha sit on top of a wooden board.  Msemen can be seen in the background.

Large rounds of harsha sit on top of a wooden board. Msemen can be seen in the background.

Harsha

A pan fried flat bread similar to cornbread, harsha is a common breakfast food. It is dipped in honey or slathered in butter. The texture is somewhat gritty, due to the semolina flour and pairs well with a steaming glass of Moroccan mint tea.

When you buy harsha from the medina, you buy in Durhams. 2 Durhams worth is a good portion for one person. If you are feeding a slightly larger group go for 4 or 5 Durhams worth is best. After the harsha is cut from the round, the shop keeper will ask if you want anything else with it. Options can include amlo or Vache Qui Rit (Laughing Cow cheese).

RECIPE

Difficulty: easy

Makes: 24 rounds of harsha

Time: 60 minutes

INGREDIENTS

4 cups fine semolina flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

6 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

pinch of cinnamon

1 cup butter

1 cup milk

1/2 cup coarse semolina flour

STEPS

  • Blend sugar, salt, fine semolina powder and baking powder.
  • Add softened butter and mix ingredients together using your hands.
  • Add 1/2 cup milk to bowl. Continue mixing. If the dough is too dry, add some more milk.
  • Once dough is formed, shape into palm sized rounds and leave the dough to rest.
  • After a few minutes, heat up a griddle and roll the each ball in the course semolina flour and flatten with your palm. Make sure the discs are 1/4 inches thick.
  • Place a round on the griddle and cook for 5 minutes. Then flip. The harsha is finished when both sides are golden brown.

EXPLORE FURTHER

If you are looking for a variation, try adding some chopped black olives and zaatar to the batter. Nix the sugar with this alteration.

Try adding in some vanilla extract to compliment the cinnamon.



Comments

Adelia Maghribia (author) from Morocco on September 04, 2018:

Also, the vegetable and fruit selection is incredible. All organic and local.

Adelia Maghribia (author) from Morocco on September 04, 2018:

Although carbohydrates are a big part of the Moroccan diet, there are many other options to pick from. Many dishes also focus on beans, chicken, meat and fish. Thinking of writing an article about it.....

Liz Westwood from UK on September 04, 2018:

This is an interesting article. It makes me hungry reading it. I am beginning to think though that Morocco is not the place to go if you are following a low carb diet, as some of my friends do.