While travelling in Morocco, one of my favourite meals was from Al Fassia in Marrakech. Even during the low tourist season, we made reservations before we arrived in Morocco. It is deservedly that popular, and they had to continually turn people away who wandered in from the street. We shared a delicious vegetarian harira, a hearty tomato-based lentil and split chickpea soup topped with dates and lime; followed by a pigeon bastilla, where pigeon meat is cooked, topped with ground almonds and pistachios, wrapped in warka, a thin phyllo-type dough and then sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar; a slow-roasted lamb shoulder dish whose name escapes me right now, but I cannot explain the sheer volume of the entire shoulder; and somehow still (not really) had room for the traditional Moroccan Orange Salad for dessert.
The Moroccan Orange Salad is prevalent around Morocco and incredibly delicious despite seemingly so simple. Personally, it is so much more than oranges and cinnamon, and if you are in Morocco and they don’t include orange blossom water, then consider it inferior, truly. But if you are elsewhere, and don’t have it, just delve into the simplicity of oranges and cinnamon. They complement each other, with the sweetness of the orange, the sweet earthiness of the cinnamon and the addition of orange blossom water gives it that subtle edge, that curiosity if you are not familiar with it.
One of my most memorable experiences during travelling is participating in a cooking class. During this trip, we opted to eschew the multitude of cooking classes, and signed up for a class at a nearby riad, where the reviews of the cooking were very positive. Best to learn the local cuisine from a local where we know the food tastes great, eh? :)
The cooking class was a great experience, because not only did we learn how to make delicious meals, but we also went to the market to gather ingredients for our feast. This is also how I scored an earthenware tagine for $2. I have no idea what the cost would have been for a tourist, but that’s the local’s price. ;)
During the cooking class, we learned how to make 3 Moroccan salads. Although salads in Morocco typically means dip and not what you might think a salad is in North America with greens. We made zaalouk, a fried eggplant dip; tomato jam (confit de tomates), a savoury tomato spread; and zucchini stuffed with tomato and cilantro. For the main dish, we were able to pick which tagine we wanted to learn (chicken with preserved lemons tagine, lamb with dates and almonds, or veal with apricots tagine). We opted for the veal tagine, and since I was so smitten with bastilla, I asked to learn how to make that instead. For dessert, we learned how to make milk bastilla, a piece of fried warka dough is topped with custard and strawberries. Our teacher was also generous with her knowledge of Moroccan food culture and even other recipes we were curious about! I had really enjoyed a traditional Moroccan cookie, coconut ghoriba (Moroccan macaroons) and this orange salad. I frantically scribbled the recipes down as she rattled the recipes off the top of her head.
I was lucky to be travelling in Morocco during clementine season, but this salad can be enjoyed whenever you have juicy oranges available. I am partial to Navel oranges, but feel free to substitute your favourite. You could also add some slivers of almond, mint and/or dates for extra oomph.
This is a light, sweet-savoury salad that is perfect any time of year. It would quench your thirst during the summer and bring you back to the tropics while you are combating the harshness of winter.
Moroccan Orange Salad (Slada Bil Bortokal)
2 large oranges (navel oranges are great!)
2 tbsp fresh orange juice
1/2 tsp orange blossom water
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp sugar (or agave nectar)
cinnamon, fresh mint, sliced almond and sliced dates, for garnish
1. Cut off the skin of the orange, being sure not to leave any pith behind. Next, slice the oranges into approximately 1 cm slices.
2. Combine the orange juice, orange blossom water, cinnamon and sugar and mix well.
3. Plate the oranges and top with the dressing. Sprinkle additional cinnamon overtop. Can use fresh mint, sliced almond and sliced dates as a garnish as well.