We shopped around a little to try and find the most authentic, one-on-one cooking class that we could in Fes. We wanted to go to the markets, shop for ingredients, and then return to a working Riad to cook up some tasty treats. A few e-mails were exchanged and we had booked in to meet Lahcen at the Bab Boujloud, or blue gate which is a monumental entrance to the old Fes Medina.
It was originally supposed to be just Kim & myself, but a lovely couple from Portland Oregon had apparently showed up the day before and not managed to meet up with Lahcen, so they joined in on our class. The 5 of us then wandered around the Medina and decided what to cook ... We spot some plastic containers which are filled with chickpeas, that have conveniently been soaked overnight already, and are ready to use. We buy some of these for our Harira, which is a Moroccan tomato & chickpea soup.
The Lahcen selects a range of fresh vegetables and herbs which will be used throughout our menu.
We spot a stall full of dates, and think it would be fantastic to do a dessert with these. Our dessert will be a coconut and date roll, so we select a big plump date full of flavor.
We pick up a few other things, including a fresh chicken, fresh artichokes, oranges and cous cous before we head back to the Riad to start cooking. There are 3 Fatima's already starting on the days prep for the guests staying in the Riad. We join them for some bread making ....
Before we know it we are at home in this quaint little kitchen, chopping, peeling, slicing & dicing our way through the preparation. We have all the ingredients ready for our first dish, the Harira soup.
We press all of the pulp from the tomatoes and then simmer the skins with herbs to make a stock, which will be the base for the Harira.
Kim gets on peeling some artichokes with Fatima for our next dish.
We then prepare some pretty little date balls. Some rolled in coconut, the other in toasted sesame seeds. These are then baked on a buttered tray before being left to cool ...
I found out this day why cous-cous tastes so damn good in Morocco! The cous-cous has handfuls of salt and a very generous amount of olive oil in which it is marinated in before being steamed .... mmm, salt
We then get set to make the most challenging dish of the day, pastilla.
A spiced chicken mixture is layered with a slightly sweet almond mix and wrapped up in big sheets of pastry that have been brushed with melted butter. Once the piece is complete, it goes into the oven to be baked.
Everything is on the stove, bubbling away. We are lucky enough to be sent upstairs to sit at the table while the Fatima's plate our lunch for us.
First up, Harira soup. So hearty with a great richness. The chickpeas have broken down and thickened up the soap, which is rich & intense and so full of flavor. Some freshly chopped herbs really liven it up.
When we try this next dish I think we are all glad that Kim had chosen artichokes at the markets. They have been simmered in orange juice with a little garlic and have the wonderful aroma of orange blossom.
Pastilla = deliciously ugly! The pastry so flaky is shatters when you penetrate it - the fillings exploding from both sides ... a little messy, but oh so deliclious!
The Fatima's were having cous-cous for lunch, so were kind enough to show us the ropes ... We also enjoyed cous-cous with 7 vegetables along with our lunch spread. A broth simmering below with herbs & tomato and then the 7 vegetables are added at different times to ensure even cooking. The cous-cous sits above in an open topped device, all those lovely vegetable flavors steaming through each grain.
Dessert arrives, our little date balls. The coconut & sesame seeds are golden and add a nice crunch to the sticky sweet date mixture. Some orange segments and a dusting of cinnamon almost complete the meal ...
Ah, a cup of Moroccan mint tea and we are happy as can be.
We thoroughly recommend spending a day with fescooking.com if you are in Fes at any time ... I think cooks and foodies of all levels will get something out of spending a day with Lahcen & the team back at their working Riad ... and just think of all that delicious food you get to enjoy!