Sharing Morocco: Exotic Flavors from My Kitchen to Yours

Sharing Morocco: Exotic Flavors from My Kitchen to Yours

by Ruth Barnes




Bring Morocco into your kitchen with Ruth Barnes, the Petite Gourmande.

In Sharing Morocco: Exotic Flavors from My Kitchen to Yours, Ruth Barnes bring to life the rich culinary history of her family’s homeland while also making the cuisine accessible to the home cook. She shares her tips and techniques for preparing Moroccan classics like bastilla, lamb with apricots and prunes, and chicken with preserved lemons, as well as more familiar dishes like baba ganoush, baklava, and kebabs.

Like so many home cooks, Barnes is a busy spouse, parent, and professional who cannot spend all day in the kitchen preparing complicated meals. But, like so many, she is committed to serving her family home-cooked meals that are fresh, healthy, and flavorful.

In Sharing Morocco, she has simplified the recipes that she loves by identifying common ingredient substitutes or demystifying the complex spice combinations so often found in Moroccan cuisine. She does not shy away from shortcuts, like utilizing pre-made phyllo dough. And, as an avid hostess, she is an advocate for freezing an extra batch of this or that to serve to unexpected guests!

Sharing Morocco is an ideal cookbook for home cooks who are new to the flavors of the Middle East or who simply enjoy exotic food. Readers will find Barnes to be a warm and welcoming guide to a culinary journey of the colorful spices and vibrant flavors of her homeland.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781626340978
Publisher: Greenleaf Book Group Press
Publication date: 10/07/2014
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 8.41(w) x 10.29(h) x 0.95(d)

About the Author

Ruth Barnes, The Petite Gourmande, grew up in a large Moroccan family bound by food and cultural tradition. She learned to cook from the women in her family who regularly prepared meals for her large immediate and extended family, neighbors, and community members. For Barnes, cooking is nurturing, and she has made it her life’s work.

Read an Excerpt

The Petite Gourmande

Sharing Morocco

By Ruth Barnes

Greenleaf Book Group Press

Copyright © 2014 Ruth Barnes and RJ Cuisine International Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-62634-097-8



In Morocco, eating is more than a necessity. Over the communal tagine, Moroccans form a bond with whomever they are sharing a meal. Nowhere is that more apparent than when dining in the home of loved ones. The familial link in Morocco spans life events such as the celebration of weddings, birthdays, and family reunions. At all these occasions, the food brings people together. Holidays in my childhood home always meant many family members and friends, and lots of food. Guests that couldn't make it to dinner would at least come for dessert and mint tea. On Friday nights after dinner, my brothers, sisters, cousins, and I would sing and play songs and entertain our guests. And somehow, even though we didn't have a big house, we always found room for everyone to sleep over.

Cooking in a Moroccan home means starting at a young age, assisting at a mother's, sister's, aunt's, or grandmother's elbow. As a result, recipes are typically passed down orally among family members rather than documented with pen and paper. Family recipes are so important that a "new" recipe is rarely served, with substitutions made only due to a dearth of a particular spice or seasonal ingredient. Each component of a Moroccan meal is infused with history and memory, from a favorite secret spice used in tagine recipes to the method of rolling out the bread that forms the basis for every meal.

Eating in restaurants is not typical for the traditional Moroccan family, as sharing home-cooked food from the table is so important. Each midday meal brings family members back home to enjoy food and company. Traditionally, the women are the cooks of the household, often spending most of the day in the kitchen and then, later, entertaining the guests. Male family members are responsible for preparing and serving the tea that welcomes anyone upon arrival in a Moroccan home.


Over the centuries, Morocco has absorbed the cultural influences of countries nearby, particularly Spain, France, and Tunisia. Many view Morocco as the Mediterranean melting pot, simmering a variety of cultures into an exotic and flavorful stew.

During the late 1800s and early 1900s, due to their geographic proximity to Morocco, France and Spain aggressively sought to secure their North African interests such as natural resources, agricultural products, and a strategic shipping port in Morocco. This resulted in both countries carving out respective regions, or protectorates, under the Treaty of Fez in 1912. Morocco achieved its independence in 1956, but the French and Spanish influences are permanently woven into the culture's architecture, music, and cuisine.

Strong evidence of the French legacy in Morocco can be found in the country's rich patisserie tradition. Pastry shops featuring French classics such as croissants, pains au chocolat, éclairs, and macarons are found around every corner. Delicate sweets like gazelle horns and honey-drenched baklava are some of Morocco's own finest desserts.

Bread is a staple of Moroccan cuisine, served at every meal. While traditional flatbread, or pita, is served with tagines, crusty French-style breads are available in many bakeries. Hearty loaves are a good companion to savory Moroccan soup, often served from street vendors.

The French also brought their knowledge of grape cultivation and winemaking. While many Moroccans refrain from drinking for religious reasons, the country has many small wineries producing wines that are becoming increasingly visible outside the region.

French is commonly spoken in Morocco, and many restaurants print their menus in French rather than the official languages of Berber or Arabic. This is likely an accommodation for the tourist economy, as the Arabic alphabet is not easy for most visiting Westerners, but it is also a legacy of French colonization. In urban centers, where restaurants are more common, traditional French and Spanish menus are typical. So if you visit Morocco but won't be venturing into the neighboring countries, this is a wonderful way to sample the foods of the countries that had a strong influence on Moroccan culture.

Spain's influence on Moroccan food is mostly seen to the north, where regions serve meals tapas-style and cultivate olives for oil and fruit. Versions of paella, gazpacho, and bocadillo sandwiches showcase the Spanish influence. Almond milk, a popular drink available from street vendors, is typically made in the Spanish style, by adding only water to the ground almonds. Sweet Spanish paprika, which is a mild ground pepper, is a common spice added to Moroccan dishes.

Moroccan food has, in turn, influenced French and Spanish cuisine. Couscous has become a staple in many French homes, and Moroccan restaurants are in almost every neighborhood of Paris. The use of saffron, turmeric, and ginger has also taken hold across the Mediterranean, and you'd be hard-pressed to find a street without a kebab vendor!


Somewhat isolated from Africa by the Sahara Desert and the Atlas Mountains, the Maghreb has, throughout the years, created its own cultural, political, and culinary heritage. The word Maghreb originates from the Arabic word for "west" and is most commonly used to describe Morocco, the country farthest west from the center of the Islamic empire and established in the seventh century. As a regional description, the Maghreb can also include Algeria, Libya, and Tunisia. Thanks to the region's proximity to Europe and its location on the trade route to eastern Asia, travelers and new settlers have greatly influenced the culture of the Maghreb.

The Maghreb has been host to a variety of religions, with Roman Christianity the main religion until the Arab conquest and subsequent conversion of much of the population to Islam. Judaism has also been practiced in the area since before the seventh century and still today maintains a proud, though dwindling, population. Religious persecution led to people seeking refuge in the Maghreb throughout the centuries, adding to both the Jewish and Muslim populations while also bringing the culture of their home countries from Italy to Iraq and beyond.

While much of the Maghreb's culture is closely associated with its Arab cousins, a few European countries have influenced the area in more recent years. Spain and France, in particular, have made strong marks on the Maghreb culture. In fact, French is still spoken in most aspects of public life, and the majority of nonnative residents of Morocco today originate in France and Spain.

The influence of Muslim Spain is seen in Morocco's zellige tilework, the country's signature decorative style. The rich and complex patterns of the mosaic tile characterize Moroccan architecture, where tiles embellish all surfaces, including walls, ceilings, and floors, and in pools and fountains. Painted ceramic tagines (rather than the clay versions invented by the native Berbers) are another exuberantly patterned Moroccan decorative art. They are thought to be a remnant of early Roman influence, with their painted exteriors evoking the color and excitement of the spice market or even documenting a story.

Spanish settlers have brought a tradition of street food, including bocadillos, tempting sandwiches stuffed with a variety of fillings, to Morocco's culinary landscape. Each culture, from Mediterranean European to Islamic, has left an indelible mark on the distinctive dishes and decorative arts of the Maghreb. From tagines to street food, worldly influences have left their mark on Maghrebi and Moroccan cuisines.


If you visit Morocco, do not turn down a cup of freshly brewed mint tea. It's not just a drink, but the signature of hospitality in every Moroccan home. Even shopkeepers serve tea to would-be buyers to form a connection and entice them to make a purchase. While Moroccans were drinking mint steeped in hot water long before the British brought tea to the country in the 1800s, the drink quickly transformed and took hold into the beverage it is today, with mint leaves steeped in green tea.

In Morocco, tea is served throughout the day and is traditionally prepared by the man of the house. Making the tea is more than the act of boiling water and steeping tea—it is a ceremony in which hospitality and friendship are celebrated.

As soon as your host brings out the copper siniyya tray, you know you will be in for a treat. The brewing process begins by rinsing the teapot, often a decorative silver pot with a very long spout (known as a barrahd), to remove tea leaves from previous brews. Then, whole Chinese green tea leaves are put in the pot, and boiling water is poured over them. After a few minutes, the tea is strained to remove the leaves. Mint leaves and plenty of sugar are then added to the brewed tea. The mixture steeps and then is poured in a long stream into small decorative glasses to release the maximum amount of aroma and add a bit of drama to the service.

The tea leaves are brewed three times during each serving to vary their strength and flavor. As each brew progresses, the flavor becomes stronger and bitterer, but it is an important gesture to your hosts to drink even the bitterest of brews! Sweetness can vary; the tea is often served sweeter in the northern part of Morocco. Everyone has their own preferred taste for the tea, and some like to boil the sugar in the tea before adding the mint. Still others add the mint to the glasses themselves for a lighter taste as well as a beautiful presentation. The preferred sugar for tea comes from sugar cones that are available in many cities. The cones are broken into pieces to add to the tea and are preferred to loose sugar or sugar cubes.

Sometimes other herbs or flavors, such as lemon verbena, marjoram, orange blossoms, and even saffron are added to the tea for variation. Mint is the preferred flavor, and most households grow their own variety just for use in their tea. If you'd like to make mint tea at home, be sure to buy fresh mint and whole tea leaves, not premade "Moroccan Mint" tea bags. While the tea bags will give you a hint of the flavor, there is no substitute for the extraordinary depth of flavor in tea made in the traditional manner.



Mint Tea

Atay bil na'na

Morocco's national drink, mint tea, is served in restaurants and homes throughout the country. It is drunk after meals, with dessert, and throughout the day. It is ceremoniously poured from a height into small tea glasses and served with mint fresh leaves. When I was young, my father would often cut the mint directly from our garden, and I grow it in my home today.

Serves 4 to 6


4 ½ cups boiling water plus extra to clean the teapot
1 small bunch of spearmint leaves
2 ½ teaspoons Chinese gunpowder green tea
4 tablespoons sugar


1. Bring the water to a boil in a kettle or medium saucepan.

2. Rinse the mint leaves and pat dry with paper towels or a clean dish towel.

3. Clean the teapot with a small amount of boiling water and then discard the water. Add the tea and a little more boiling water, and swirl the water.

4. Add the mint leaves, sugar, and the 4 ½ cups of boiling water to the teapot, stir, cover, and let stand for four minutes.

5. Pour the tea into glasses and serve with dessert.

Almond Milk with Orange Blossom Water

H'leeb B'looz

This refreshing drink is a wonderful beverage on a warm day. Very popular in Morocco, this drink is a unique take on a milkshake.

Serves 4


1 ½ cups plus 1 cup milk
½ cup sugar
2 ½ cups blanched almonds
1 cup water
1 tablespoon orange blossom water


1. Place 1 ½ cups of milk and the sugar in a saucepan and simmer, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

2. Put the almonds and the remaining 1 cup of milk into a blender and blend until the almonds are finely ground and the mixture thickens. Remove from the blender.

3. When the milk and sugar mixture has cooled, combine with the blended mixture and strain through a fine mesh strainer into a medium-sized bowl. Discard the contents in the strainer.

4. Pour the liquid mixture into a pitcher or a jug, add the water and orange blossom water, stir well, and chill.

5. Serve cold.

Watermelon Juice Cooler with Rose Water

D'laha bil Ma del Wurd

Watermelon juice is a cool, uplifting beverage on a hot day. Rose water is a classic addition to many Moroccan recipes. The combination of the floral bouquet from the rose water and the fruity taste of the watermelon makes a delightful and traditional Moroccan treat.

Serves 4 to 6


One seedless watermelon, weighing between 4 and 6 pounds
2 teaspoons rose water


1. Chill the watermelon for 30 minutes. Cut it in half and then into quarters.

2. Remove the rind and cut the quarters into large cubes. Run the cubes through a juice extractor.

3. Add the rose water to the juice, stir, and serve in tall glasses.


The spices of Morocco flavor not only its food but its entire culture. Upon stepping into the Marrakech spice market, or souk, you'll be presented with a feast for the senses. Bins of sumac, za'atar, and saffron abound and set your nose tingling. Vendors hawk their wares, such as freshly harvested nuts and the finest teas, from impossibly cramped stalls. It's hard to walk through the market and not be completely inspired by the incredible variety of ingredients available to you!

Spices are presented in impressively heaped cones, making you almost hesitate to disturb them by making a purchase. But don't worry—the shopkeepers will smooth out any hole as fast as they can draw you in for a sale. Because ground spices lose their flavor quickly, most Moroccan shoppers buy only a small amount at a time, which is measured into paper envelopes at purchase.

Saffron, perhaps the most prized of all spices, is what every visitor to the souk should snap up. Buying the precious threads in the country of origin is a wonderful treat. Ras el hanout, a spice blend sometimes made up of twenty or more spices, is available in every spice stall but varies according to its maker. Local shopkeepers take pride in their personalized blends, as distinctive as their fingerprints. Za'atar, composed of thyme, marjoram, oregano, salt, and toasted sesame seeds, is another spice blend that is incredibly popular. It has been in use throughout the Mediterranean for hundreds of years and is paired with meat, vegetables, bread, and even olive oil to make a dipping sauce for pita bread.

You'll find an immeasurable variety of spices in the souk. Cinnamon is available both ground and as whole sticks. The bark, curled in on itself, will remain fresh as long as it's whole, but make sure you have a strong grinder on hand. Coriander, the leaves of which are commonly known as cilantro in the United States, is a staple of Moroccan cooking. The leaves are purchased in bulk and often freeze-dried for quick use. Coriander seeds are also used in spice rubs for meat.

Turmeric, much like saffron, adds a signature yellow color to dishes but is less flavorful. It is, however, much more affordable. Paprika is an important ingredient for most Moroccan sauces and is available in smoked and sweet varieties, in addition to the basic flavor.

It can be easy to be swept away among the large groups of people and maze-like aisles of the Moroccan spice market. Visit early in the morning for a quieter, calmer experience. But always be prepared to haggle, as vendors love to participate in the art of negotiation and may consider it an insult if you buy with prices as marked! If you are not able to stroll through a souk to gather ingredients for the night's meal, a simple visit to your local grocery or specialty international food market will yield many of the base spices you need to re-create the sensual flavors of Moroccan cooking.


Excerpted from The Petite Gourmande by Ruth Barnes. Copyright © 2014 Ruth Barnes and RJ Cuisine International Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Greenleaf Book Group Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Introduction, 1,
Food & Family, 7,
French & Spanish Influence, 9,
The Maghreb, 12,
Moroccan Tea Culture, 15,
Drinks, 19,
Spice Market, 26,
Salads & Soups, 29,
The Tagine, 79,
Main Courses, 83,
Street Food, 191,
Side Dishes, 193,
Desserts, 239,
Locally Grown, 287,
Where To Buy Ingredients, 291,
Acknowledgments, 292,
Index, 293,
About the Author, 299,

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Sharing Morocco: Exotic Flavors from My Kitchen to Yours 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
megHan-sHena More than 1 year ago
Sharing Morocco As I've mentioned before, I am a huge fan of cookbooks - read 'em every chance I get.  I am especially excited to read ones about cuisines from other countries.  So when I saw this one, I just couldn't help myself. I really liked this book.  She includes a really nice history of Moroccan cuisine at the beginning and the book is filled with beautiful photos. There are a lot of delicious recipes - a few I've tried and a lot more that I want to try in the future - and tons of information.    Note: I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review.  No other consideration was offered, expected or received.