Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Couscous cooking lesson

While we were at Ait Benhaddou our host gave us a lesson in cooking couscous.

This Kasbah had very good internet and we all took advantage of it.

The owner acted as an extra in some films so he calls himself  'Action'. He layed out the ingredients of a proper couscous.

The couscous before it is cooked.

The traditional vegetables that are part of the meal. The Moroccans consider couscous to be the entire dish, not just the grain. They include pumpkin, tomato, onion, eggplant, carrot and turnip. No garlic or potato.

There are six spices: salt, pepper, cumin, ginger, paprika and saffron. If you don't have saffron you can substitute tumeric.

They only do meat, chicken and vegetable versions. Fish is not allowed.

Action in action. Note the double steamer in the foreground. The top container does not have a lid and the bottom has holes that allows the steam from the bottom pot to reach the semolina in the top pot. The meat is added to the bottom pot as well as olive oil and water. It is cooked for an hour and then all the vegies are added except for the tomato and pumpkin.

The semolina is wet with a small amount of water and olive oil.

He used his hands to form the semolina into clumps so that they would not fall through the holes into the bottom pot.

He formed a mini volcano with the semolina and then dumped it into the top pot. After thirty minutes the semolina is taken out, fluffed, more water and oil is added and then back into the top pot. This is repeated a few times.

Right before the end, the tomato and pumpkin (with skin still on) are added to the bottom pot and cooked briefly.

The result is the best couscous I have ever eaten with the meat falling off the bone. The grains are ultra soft and fluffy. It takes at least two hours to prepare and our guide had to call ahead to let them know when we would be having dinner. Sorry about the blurry photo.

Mind you, it is a whole lot easier to prepare the packet stuff, but it is not as good as the real thing. 

Ait Benhaddou

If you are a regular film viewer, you have probably seen Ait Benhaddou. It has been used as a backdrop in many feature films such as Lawrence of Arabia and Gladiator.

The road passed through the Valley of the Roses and of course, there is a 'Big Rose'.

February is the wrong season for roses but at the right time of year, there are flowers everywhere.

We stopped to visit a rose outlet.

No, I did not buy any.

Some rain clouds appeared in the distance over the High Atlas mountains.

It rained for a short while. The wipers on the van were going flat out. 

We stopped for a late lunch at Ouarzazate.

I had a salad which was ok but not great.

There are some film making studios to the west of the town. Somebody asked if they were worth visiting and our guide said 'no'. 

And if this is representative of what was inside then our guide was correct. After seeing the real thing in Egypt, this was appalling.

Another studio.

We arrived in Ait Benhaddou. This is the dining room of our Kasbah.

And there is the fortified village which was on the caravan route from the Sahara to Marrakech.

After a brief rest, we headed off to see the village. We had to cross a small river using these stepping stones.

Nobody fell in.

I presume there are occasional flash floods.

Eventually we climbed all the way to the top.

The area was apparently used in the film Gladiator.

Mohammed was leading the group for the tour.

It is quite a climb but I managed to keep up. There are numerous alleys and tunnels.

The view got better and better.

Some of the films which used the village as a filming location. I will have to watch 'Lawrence of Arabia' again sometime.

The buildings with four towers are Kasbahs.

The final climb to the top. It was very windy and quite cold.

The view was stupendous.

Some snow on the High Atlas mountains in the distance.

You might notice a green door in the distant fence which encloses an old Jewish cemetery.

A Moslem cemetery.

As you walk around the top of the hill, the view keeps changing to vastly different scenes.

Looking down to the village and the river.

Rike has her turn taking the same picture. Ayo supervises.

Everybody has a cell phone. I liked the orange turban.

This used to be a Jewish Synagogue. It will eventually be restored with UNESCO funding.

A Kasbah tower. A few families still live in the village.

We walked down a lane with stuff for sale.

Finally there was a pedestrian bridge to take us back over the river.

It was a great walk.