By Derin Solu
No visit to Marrakesh is complete without a private cooking class where you can learn to make traditional Moroccan tajine and roll fresh couscous from scratch. Couscous is tasteless and disgusting you say? I would have agreed with you, had I not met our host, Pierre Herve, and embarked on the most enjoyable and enlightening cooking class experience at the cooking school of Dar Les Cigognes Hotel in Marrakesh. After learning to roll delicious, light couscous with the help of a soft-spoken, Moroccan Dada (traditional Moroccan, female cook), you will be a couscous convert.
Upon our arrival at Dar Les Cigognes Hotel, we were guided into the cool, calming interior courtyard of the riad where we sipped mint tea among the fragrant orange trees and ornately carved furnishings. Then, we embarked on a 3-4 hour long journey with our charming host, Pierre and the three Dadas who cook for the hotel. Our two-person private class began with a tour through a maze of winding back streets and a visit to a traditional communal oven where Pierre provided us with a colorful history of the neighborhood, giving us a rare glimpse into the local customs.
Then, we toured a local farmer’s market and spice bazaar led by the ever trusty and eccentric Pierre. During this tour we ambled through the labyrinthine Jewish quarter, tasted various spices provided by friendly vendors, and experienced a blissful onslaught on our senses. I will not provide any spoilers of the numerous surprises awaiting you on your local market tour, but just be ready to get your hands a little dirty during your visit!
Once we had our fill of the markets, Pierre introduced us to the Moroccan Dadas at the riad who showed us how to prepare the traditional dishes of our choosing. For our menu, we opted to cook succulent lamb tajine, mouth-watering vegetable couscous, spicy taktouka (a grilled pepper dish), and zaalouk (a fried eggplant dish). The Dadas, with the help of Pierre’s translation, guided us through the various components of our recipes and taught us about the myriad of spices used in our dishes.
Lamb Tajine and Taktouka (spiced, grilled peppers)
We soon learned that we clearly were no match for the Dadas’ highly efficient cutting techniques and clever cooking tricks that were second nature to these expert cooks. Instead, we opted to busy ourselves as ever present, eager taste testers and could often be caught sneaking morsels of lamb, eggplant, and peppers from the stove-top. In this instance, lack of self-control is definitely encouraged.
After our cooking class, we enjoyed our 3-course meal while sipping local Moroccan wine on the spacious and sunlit rooftop terrace overlooking the Palais El Bahdii. The lamb tajine was succulent and fell off the bone while the light, fluffy couscous was the perfect complement to the heavier, more savory tajine. The interaction with the local Dadas, delicious food, and guided market tour, makes this cooking class a truly memorable experience that should not be missed.
About the Author: Derin Solu is an avid traveler and lover of all things food and wine related. During her travels, she can often be found seeking out animal encounter adventures and unique dining experiences. She is originally from Istanbul and currently works as a consultant in New York City.