I will bet you 30 dirhams that you cant's spend one day in Marrakech and not have at least three cups of sweet mint tea. Moroccans drink hot tea all year round and all day long. Bars and cafes are always filled with tea-sipping crowd, souq merchants offer tea to the toughest negotiators and a pot of tea prepared and served by the man of the house is a display of Moroccan hospitality.
If offered tea, it is polite to have at least three cups. The drink is poured from high above glasses to make tea nice and frothy. And to show off a little bit, too.
The drink is made with Moroccan mint and Chinese gunpowder tea. The tea-drinking tradition is younger than it might seem. Moroccans were first introduced to Chinese green tea in 1854. British merchants, frustrated with blockades resulting from Crimean War and unable to transport the wares of tea to the Baltic region, decided to start selling their chests of tea in ports of Morocco. It turned out to be a marketing success, as Moroccans had fallen in love with the tea, creating a new market for tea from the Far East.
Traditionally, the tea is served three times. Since the tea leaves are left in the pot, the taste evolves and each glass has its unique flavour. According to a Moroccan proverb, the first glass is as gentle as life, the second one is as strong as love, the third - as bitter as death.
Recipe: Moroccan mint tea
Makes 6 small glasses
3 tsp green tea
3 tsp brown sugar
10 springs fresh mint
4 cups water
Place the tea in a pot. Boil the water and pour the water to the pot. Set aside for 2 minutes.
Stir in sugar and add mint. Set aside for 3-4 minutes.
Pour with the teapot a high distance above the glasses. Garnish with fresh mint.
Roasted vegetables are great as a light lunch or dinner. Try roasted asparagus with basil and sea salt pesto, baby artichokes with feta dip and round courgettes with cherry tomato sauce.
Surely, they would be even greater, if grilled and consumed in a garden, by the lake or in a park. Unfortunately, that is not always possible. For instance, one might not have a garden, a lake or a grill. Unexpected rain can also disrupt an al fresco dinner. Another reason could be a group of wasps.
It was during my sailing holidays in Croatia. I have spend the entire day gutting fish, squid and octopus that I'd bought on a market, geatting ready for a BBQ evening. When we'd finally managed to find a picturesque little bay and tie up the boat, we realised there were countless wasps coming to our yacht and we had to run away. We ended up staying in a marina where barbecueing was not permitted and I had to make the squid and octopus in the oven.
What lesson can be learned from this story? Probably the fact that anything that you might want to barbecue, you can also make in the oven. It doesn't always work the other way around, but in this case it does - I have prepare these recipes for the oven, but you can make the vegetables on the grill too.
Recipe: Roasted asparagus with basil and sea salt pesto
a bunch asparagus
one tsp. olive oil
Recipe: Basil and sea salt pesto
one cup basil leaves
1/2 tsp. coarse sea salt
2 tbsp. olive oil
Blend basil with olive oil.
Add salt, combine.
Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Trim asparagus' ends. Coat asparagus with olive oil.
Roast at 180C for about 20 minutes.
Serve with pesto.
Recipe: Roasted artichokes with sizzling feta dip
4-6 baby artichokes
one tsp olive oil
2 tsp lemon juice
one tsp lemon zest
Recipe: Sizzling feta dip
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
tsp olive oil
2 tbsp lemon juice
Prepare a bowl with cold water with lemon juice. To prevent artichokes from discoloration, keep the cut ones in the bow before you're ready to roast them.
Cut the stalks off the artichoke. Pull off the tough leaves. Cut the artichoke in half. Spoon out the inner leaves and the fuzzy choke. Very young artichokes might not have the choke.
Combine oil and lemon juice, coast artichokes with the mixture. Place them in a baking dish and top with lemon zest.
Roast at 200C for aboit 25 mintes.
Combine feta with oil and lemon juice.
Place in a ramekin and bake with the artichokes for 20 minutes.
Recipe: Roasted round courgettes with roasted tomatoes sauce
4 round courgettes
1/2 tsp chili flakes
tsp olive oil
Recipe: Roasted tomatoes sauce
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes
tsp brown sugar
a pinch of salt
Cut the tomatoes in halves and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with oil, sprinkle with salt and sugar.
Roast at 150C for about 45 minutes.
Cool down and blend.
Cut the courgettes in halves and coat with oil. Place them in a baking dish and top with chili flakes.
It might sound like laundry-detergent-commercial-poetry or pearls of wisdom from the wall of a chained cafe, but coffee really is always a good idea and a steaming mug of tea will help you calm down in almost any crisis. I actually think that time stops as soon as the first drop of hot liquid hits the bottom of a china cup.
It's really important to make time for a proper break.