Saturday, 18 April 2015

Moroccan tea: the types, the herbs..all about it

Moroccan tea or Attay differs from an area to another. While Moroccan mint tea is the most famous drink to represent Morocco nowadays, it's worth knowing that Moroccan tea is more complex than that.

We have 3 types of Moroccan tea verisons: Attay Sahraoui. Attay be na'na', Attay be tekhlita.

Attay "Sahraoui": The people of Sahara and desertic areas don't use mint. They actually prefer it without. Their method of making tea and filtering it before serving a glass to the guest is far more complex than the usual mint tea we know. It's a show worth watching.

Attay "Sahraoui" has a serious reputation accross Morocco. It's just the strongest and it seems to be good for headaches.



Attay be tekhlita (mix): Going towards Marrakech, El Jadida and all in between, tea lovers like to flavour their mint tea with an array of other mints and herbs, depending on the mood, the seasonality or the occasion. The mix of herbs is called "tekhlita", which literally translate to mix.

Specific stalls in the market selling the Moroccan mint tea herbs. We bring it home and make our own tekhlita
The common dried tea leaves used for Moroccan tea are sold in a pack and referred to as Gunpowder green tea.

The standard dried green tea used for Moroccan tea
Herbs are not only added to flavour the tea but to help with specific nervous or digestive concerns. Thyme or lemon verbena are one of the herbs used for targeted purposes.

Tea served in a tall glass (public stall in a market) with extra sugar and extra mint leaves

Attay be na'na' (with mint): Some other regions or rather families don't even go there. They just pick a few types of mint or just one, mix them and add them to the pot.

Making Moroccan tea also differs from one family to another. While some insist on having the foam on top of their beverage, some don't bother and all they want is a mild glass of tea. This definitely impacts how it will be done after all ingredients are in the pot: Do you "chahhar" or not? Which means do you let it simmer for a few minutes over low heat or you just let it infuse without the heat to serve it afterward? That's the question!



It goes without saying that sugar is an adjustable ingredient to taste. Most of the caterers nowadays serve 2 teas: one with sugar and one without. No one will be surprised if you ask for less sugar or no sugar. However, foreign writers and publishers about Moroccan tea enjoy skipping this change in the habits because they would have tried only a few...But yes, you can always ask that sugar comes on the side or none of it should be around your tea!



I was invited to present a Moroccan tea ceremony to the Dolphin Square's Moroccan Spa and here is the description of the lovely PR lady who took the pain to write all my description on how to make Moroccan mint tea.

I'd rather say that the last glass posted there was the one showing a tea without a "signature" foam on crowning the tea..

Along with the usual type of mint used for Moroccan mint tea, we tend to use one or more of these herbs but with parsimony; we add one or two leaves of sage, a stalk of wormwood or verbena, or robert geranium (my favourite, also used during the distillation of orange blossom water).

Waiting for that tea to infuse
In Fez, the city where orange blossom is a big deal, we serve flavoured Moroccan tea with blossoms picked from the cedrat/bigaradier tree (bitter orange) or from any lemon or orange tree in the house. You could also buy the blossoms in the market when in season.

All these herbs can be dried and frozen. We use them throughout the year in case they're not available fresh due to the seasonality.


Herbs used for tea but also in some regional couscous and other recipes


Fliou: Fr = la menthe pouliot, menthe sauvage. Eng = pennyroyal. It brings a peppermint/spearmint layer to the mint and it suddenly becomes so refreshing eventhough it's a warm drink. Pennyroyal is also used to cook dishes such as potato "hzina" or special soups for winter. We also drink a milk infusion of pennyroyal when we catch cold.


Na'Na'/Liqama: Fr = la menthe. Eng = mint. Note that there are many types of mints in Morocco and mixing them makes the best Attay.


Timijja/Timarsat: Fr = menthe ronde ou aquatique. Eng =Applemint, Bowle's Mint. It has an interesting taste and we also use it to make a specific type of harcha or couscous.




 Salmiya: Fr= la sauge. Eng = sage

Left: sage is in the middle of the display. Right: sage in the pot (front)

Merdeddouch: Fr = la marjolaine. Eng = marjoram


Louiza: Fr= ka verveine citronelle. Eng= lemon verbena. So relaxing.



L'aatarcha : Fr: géranium Robert. Eng: Robert Geranium. It brings a flowery and refreshing flavour to the mix.



 Chiba: Fr= absinthe. Eng: absinth/wormwood. It's best to serve it in a glass on the side so whoever wants it adds it to their own glass. Not everyone is found of it. I just found it sold at one of the North African shops in London. I think it's not easy to come by though.


 Azir: Fr= romarin. Eng= rosemary.


Rosemary, between sage and mint
Z'itra: Fr =Thym. Eng =Thyme. There are a few varieties of thyme. It's worth mentioning that in Morocco, many people tend to use the word Za'atar or sahtar for thyme (not the Levantine mix) which is oregano.



Lahba1: Fr= basilic. Eng =basil. There are two types in Morocco: the common Italian basil but the best for Moroccan tea is a home grown variety called "lahbaq el beldi" which has rougher stalks and leaves. (No pic)

So how do you like yours?

Friday, 17 April 2015

Gluten-free Moroccan street food: soft chickpeas "Taib we Hari"

Taib we hari is a very common street food nibble which happens to be gluten-free and light. Well, unless you ask the seller to fill a half-baguette with it along with some salad, then you are looking for a meal.

Taib we hari is an interesting name which means "cooked to softness" and that's what is it about: cooking the chickpeas to a soft state so you can break it between two fingers without effort. It's then spiced with simple Moroccan flavours: cumin and soudaniya (chili powder).  It's an easy straight-forward recipe and nothing is complicated about it.

A street seller of taib we hari
The chickpeas version is rather more famous than the dried fava beans version.


This is the stantard version sold accross Morocco but families tend to add their own twists of herbs of spices. I prefer the simple version mentioned above and this is the one I'm about to post.

Don't be tempted to use tinned chickpeas. When cooked from scatch, they taste nothing like the thinned ones. It's the same logic for a proper homemade hummus. The result will be very rewarding.



Ingredients
Serves 4
Prep: 5 min - cooking : 45 min approx
  • 1 cup of dried chickpeas, presoaked in water overnight
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 1/2 tsp of baking soda or baking powder (optional)
  • 1 l of water
Seasoning after cooking (season generously)
  • Salt
  • Hot chili powder
  • Ground cumin

Taib we hari, lightly seasoned to my taste


Preparation

We usually use a pressure cooker for this recipe but you can use a deep cooking pot with a lid and adjust the cooking time.

Cook the presoaked and washed chickpeas in water, salt and baking soda (you can omit the last ingredient if you are not in a hurry). Keep the pot covered and adjust water level to cover the chickpeas as long as they're not tender yet.

The spice mix for seasoning


Once the chickpeas are soft, drain and season to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature within the next hours.





Thursday, 16 April 2015

Moroccan "bid we maticha" for breakfast: chakchouka

Chekchouka or Shekshuka can be found all across the Arab world. It's usually served for breakfast but we also make sandwiches to go for later on in the day.

The Moroccan name for this breakfast combination is called Bid we maticha (Eng. eggs with tomatoes). The young generation calls in BM or BBM.

My breakfast combo. I like bid we maticha scrambled while my mother likes a runny egg yolk

The recipe is simple as it consists on frying or stewing tomatoes in olive oil along with garlic, then come the eggs which could be poached or scrambled. The seasoning is paprika, cumin and hot chili powder for a hot variation.

In our family, we also like to add some green olives all around.


Bid we maticha, served to us on the way to Essaouira

You can order bid be maticha in many mahlabas as part of Moroccan street food. I also remember an old man serving it throughout the morning @ Marché Central/Casablanca. His clients are locals but also foreigners who managed to get his address |(smart pants!). I reckon Bid we maticha and Moroccan mint tea was all what he sold during the morning. then he closes around 2 pm! Job done!



Ingredients
Serves 2 - 4
Prep: 7 min - Cooking: 10 min
  • 2 cups of tomato pulp or skined and seeded tomatoes chopped in small cubes
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 to 4 tbsps of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic, grated
  • 1/2 tsp of ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp of chili powder (optional)
  • 1 tsp of paprika
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Garnish
  • Green olives
  • Chopped parsley
If you want poached eggs on top, just ask the vendor.

Preparation

Cut the tomato from the belly into two, discard the seeds and grate it with large cheese grater. Discard the skin and collect the pulp.

I also used half chopped and half grated tomatoes for more texture
In a frying pan or a tagine over medium heat, heat half of the oil and fold in the tomato pulp and the garlic. Fry for about 7 minutes until the tomatoes seem to be cooked and the water evaporated. Season with salt, half of the spices.

I just added capers instead of olives (both are optional)

Add the rest of the oil and crack in the eggs one next to the other. Sprinkle the rest of the spices and cover.

Cook for about 2 minutes while pricking the eggs and opening pockets so the white cooks evenly. You could also beat the eggs before adding them to the tomato base, either you keep the layers separated or you scramble the eggs along with the tomatoes. It's a matter of choice.

Enjoy with a hot Moroccan mint tea.

You could eat the leftovers cold. We usually make a sandwich to go with them.



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