Moroccan cuisine is a sort of religion. It contains a moral code, a specific and fundamental set of beliefs and practices. From an early age, we learn that mint tea goes alongside bread and butter at family gatherings. We always make sure to feed our stomachs as well as our souls. And mothers are goddesses. My mother and I stepped into a love that pre-existed us, and but the bond intensified over a common passion: cooking.
I grew up in a house with a spicy-herby smell, and it turned into a bakery before Eid (an important religious event in the Muslim world, marking the end of Ramadan fasting). My mom works as a teacher for four hours every day, but never missed a chance to impress us with her creativity and dexterity. I was assigned back-up tasks such as looking for flour and sugar and the needed utensils. I was allowed to watch, while she crafted her culinary art—a little jealous for not being able to pitch in, and longing for the day where I could be in her shoes.
(My mom, my sister Chada, and me)
Now that I am grown enough to cook on my own, it fills me with pride to know that I have her approval when she asks me about recipes or techniques. But I still watch her in amazement. The aromas in her kitchen can take me back straight to childhood, awakening my earliest memories of harcha (semolina bread in the form of a galette), the folded and fried dough called melwi, or kaab al ghzal (a crescent-shaped almond cookie that smells like heaven). And among all the Moroccan gems, nothing compares to baghrir, a mouthwatering pancake with a thousand holes, spongy and soft, gently drizzled with honey and melted butter.
My mom has always cooked with confidence, never wearing an apron and loyal to her comfy clothes (a T-shirt with super-large pants). What I love most about her outfit is the turban on her head to prevent her hair from falling into the food. But really, she just loves to cook with style.
Maha Rouchati graduated from the National School of Management in Tangier and writes at thetaste0flife.wordpress.com.
12 oz. semolina flour
2 1/2 c. lukewarm water
1 1/2 t. baking powder
salt to taste
1 egg, beaten
1 T. fresh yeast
Mix dry ingredients in a bowl.
Add warm water and yeast, mixing for 3 minutes.
Add egg and blend.
Cover and let rest for 20 - 30 minutes.
In a non-stick pan, add 1/4 c. batter.
Cook without flipping until the surface does not appear wet.
Cool on a rack.
Serve with honey and mint tea.