Moroccan Cooking Book Recommendations?
October 25, 2011 3:13 AM   Subscribe

I'm interested in exploring Moroccan cooking, and I understand that Paula Wolfert is the go-to author. Any recommendations of particular books? Any other sources you'd suggest? Thanks!
posted by Judd Danby to Food & Drink (13 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
She actually just released in the last few weeks a new book "the food of morocco" that is just lovely. That said IMO she is probably one of I not the finest American cookbook author and I don't think you'd be doing yourself a disservice by picking up her other books with big morocco components especially "couscous and other good foods"

Personally I'd get the new book - partially because she's revisited most of the recipes in "couscous" but also because her recipes have gotten a little less demanding.
posted by JPD at 4:09 AM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh also hit up and get a basic unglazed tagine
posted by JPD at 4:10 AM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you have Facebook, I recommend friending her. She updates regularly with recipe posts and photos and other useful information about where to get clay cookware and couscousieres, etc. She also has a website full of recipes, if you want to take her stuff for a test drive before you commit to a book. As mentioned above, her stuff is often time-consuming and labor-intensive, but so, so worth it. As a bonus, she is a fantastic writer with lots of interesting stories from her travels and friendships with an array of people (even Paul Bowles and Burroughs, ha).
posted by ifjuly at 4:30 AM on October 25, 2011

Oh, and this might be too derail-y, but if you dig this kind of thing you might also really like Joyce Goldstein and Claudia Roden--both focused for long periods of time on this kind of cuisine and its sister Mediterranean fare, and Goldstein in particular is very straight-up accessible, more so than Wolfert, recipe-wise while still being authentic and super delicious.

I meant to say above too for sheer love of the prose and unusual recipes, Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco is a classic for a reason. It's probably closest to my heart prose-lover-wise though I actually cook out of it less than stuff by the other two authors.
posted by ifjuly at 4:34 AM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Paula Wolfert is fine, but she tends to snazzy-up her recipes too much for my taste. If you want a ton of Moroccan recipes that are just like what we eat at home (ok, mine would be slightly different, since I cook stuff from the South, and she's a Casawiya living in the North), you should check out Christine Benlafquih's "About" site on Moroccan Food.
posted by HopperFan at 5:14 AM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Came in to recommend Claudia Roden's book
Very accessible and authentic recipes, but invite your friends because the dishes are large.
posted by gijsvs at 5:16 AM on October 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

I worked in a Morrocan French restaurant a long time ago. I don't remember any particular cook book being very helpful. I think maybe don't take "Americanized" recipe versions of any culture's cuisine too seriously. Get yourself the Real Deal.

For example, Thai food isn't Thai without palm sugar. Brown sugar is not not not the same. In Morrocan cuisine, I believe some of the equivalents are a homemade Ras el Hanout and maybe preserved lemons. And knowing how to use a couscousiere properly. I've never made a traditional tagine that was slow cooked by being buried in a fire pit, but I've visualized every step of how I might one day go about that tasty project

(I'm certain Wolfert covers these simple things, I just object generally when any author adjusts recipes to make them more "accessible" Grrrrrrr!!)

Go ahead and google around, read blogs that discuss techniques and recipes that are by Morrocans. Look for folks discussing the food that their grandma's made. That's what you are looking for.

At the white table cloth upscale restaurant I worked at, twice a month these little old Morrocan women would take over our kitchen and make specialties. They used to cook us under the table. It was humbling. They were flawless in their technique, the flavors they coaxed out of dishes with the same pantry we used.... just wow.

This was 15 years ago. I'll search the mental data base and google around a little later to see if any "must-know" recipes or techniques jump out at me.

Good question! Thank you for this!
posted by jbenben at 8:19 AM on October 25, 2011

Literally the first two recipes in her new book are preserved lemons and ras el hanout. She can be accused of a lot of things, but dumbing things down for people is not one of them. Her recipe for Couscous in her first book actually sort of terrifies me - and I'm the sort of person who butchered a pair of moulard ducks last weekend, rendered their fat and put up confit for the winter.
posted by JPD at 8:36 AM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Homemade ras el hanout is difficult for some because some of the more esoteric flavors involved--rose petals, lavender, etc.--are hard to acquire in small enough amounts to keep fresh for blending. As long as you find a reputable spice house that includes all the components--many cheat by only having say half of them listed--it's ok. When I mentioned accessible upthread WRT to Goldstein, I certainly didn't mean she "Kraft Foods"-erizes the recipes (hell, her recipe for pastilla is true to form and calls for pigeons). But she's also not asking you to find a butcher in the middle of the dessert with a lamb ready for an outdoor spit, that's all. There's a balance for home cooks between "amazing and special and authentic" and "so much so I will never be able to make this recipe" etc. Goldstein is great at that balance, that's all.
posted by ifjuly at 8:45 AM on October 25, 2011

And, can't nth JPD's response hard enough. Implying Wolfert is not Hardcore About Moroccan Food (or any of the cuisines she's written about, ie Cooking of Southwest France) is totally absurd. If anything she might be too much the other way, too dauntingly authentic and laborious. She knows more about the stuff, including all the things you mentioned such as proper couscousiere info, origin and family tree of sauces, preserving lemons, spice blends, etc., than pretty much anyone in the English-speaking world.
posted by ifjuly at 8:49 AM on October 25, 2011

And don't be afraid of her couscous recipes--I made the one on her website a while back and it was the most delicious couscous I have ever eaten, definitely worth it. Miles beyond anything else claiming to be couscous.
posted by ifjuly at 8:51 AM on October 25, 2011

Ras al hanout doesn't have to have rose petals and lavender. The idea with it is that it's a spice mix that has some ingredients that are almost always in it, but the rest of the mix is up to the shop - hence the name, "head of the shop."
posted by HopperFan at 11:27 AM on October 25, 2011

I also use this book a lot - Traditional Moroccan Cooking : Recipes from Fez - it was written back in the 1930s and has some very good recipes. Tested on Moroccan friends and relatives with great approbation.
posted by HopperFan at 11:32 AM on October 25, 2011

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