Now where was I… oh yes, dinner!
First came the dates, baghrir (crepes) with butter and honey, milk, and chabakia (cookies), with juices of every ilk in crystal pitchers with a tray of glasses for each juice. These are the traditional foods with which to break the Ramadan fast. Everything was presented on lovely china set on silver trays; white embroidered linen napkins, and sterling silver in a Baroque design, which as odd as it sounds fit with the décor. And yes, they were indeed the King’s dates – oh my. The table was huge and with every course it was filled to the edges with food. The word banquet was fulfilled in its definition.
Next the harira, the traditional soup for Ramadan. I went over to Moroccan Kitchen (where for those of you who DO cook, the ladies have wonderful recipes) to get all the ingredients for you: chickpeas, onions, tomatoes, tiny cubes of beef, parsley, coriander, rice, potatoes, carrots, salt, pepper, saffron, and cinnamon. It was served of course with the wonderful bread of Morocco made in ovals, circles, braided, and tiny poufs.
Then the salads, the tiny bowls filled the table. The servers stood to the side and when we indicated what we wanted they filled the plates, and or bowls. There were more than I can remember but I’ll have a go: zaalouk with zucchini, cinnamon stewed carrots, the thick honey apple sauce they make here, humus, cabbage, eggplant, beets, stewed tomatoes in spices, Mediterranean white beans in a slightly tangy marinade, some boiled leafy greens that I don’t know the name for but that was really spicy, green, red, and black olives in various spices, and radishes boiled and something done to them that made me who hates radishes love them. On a large orange platter with an intricate black pattern were the bisteeya - pastry with shredded chicken topped with eggs in lemony sauce and dusted with powdered sugar and sweetened almonds. There was more but I don’t know the names for everything and there were so many bowls it was overwhelming; as well I was spending SOME of the time looking into those gorgeous eyes of Hassan and listening to his tales of his time in Saudi Arabia. I must determine some way of telling you some of the stories of the Saudi royal family without getting either of us into trouble – do remember where I am. I don’t think pseudonyms will do it, but I shall think of something.
After the salads came the main dishes – there was couscous with chickpeas, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, onions, turnips, cabbage, zucchini, and pumpkin; spiced with salt, pepper, saffron, chili, ginger, and olive oil. The tagines were presented in grand style. “I recognize that design. Aren’t those like the ones we saw that day at the hotel?” I asked.
He smiled. He does that a lot. “Yes, I remembered that you admired them and so I had some made for tonight,” he said smiling like the Cheshire cat and reaching for some bread. He sat there on his silk cushion looking easily like some sheik from 1625 in his glory. I could envision that swarthy complexion wrapped in the headdress of a Berber warrior and his well muscled arms holding a scimitar sword. Yes, we already know I have a vivid imagination all right! Back to the food.
There were several tagines (we could have fed twenty people); one of chicken with preserved lemons and red olives, and another of lamb with prunes. The meat was so tender it fell apart and the sauces were a delight. Another of lamb with honey, almonds and raisins, and then hare with paprika, tomatoes and onions. Then a huge tray of chicken-almond, lamb, and beef pastillas: the meat pies wrapped in the thin flakey pastry and coated with powdered sugar and cinnamon. There were two fish dishes: one a small white fish fried in olive oil and covered in some flour-spice concoction, as well as grilled salmon, which was done to perfection.
At this point I was thinking, “Why oh why did I wear the tight jeans?”
“Shall we take a walk on the beach while they prepare coffee, tea, and desert?” he asked standing and reaching for my hand.
One of the wonderful things I love about Morocco is that food is not wasted here. When I asked Hassan about the obvious amount of untouched food he said, “The servers will take it home to their families of course. This is Ramadan so they will also give part of it away to those they know less fortunate.” He seemed a little surprised at my asking. This is not a wealthy country you know that. I loved his answer.
Tomorrow I am off to Fez, and so you shall have to return of Friday for the last bit eh? I must go to the gym; I’m still working off that dinner, and preparing for the feast no doubt on Thursday night in Fez.