Mediterranean mix of styles

By Isaac Massias

HALF a century ago, more than a quarter of a million Jews lived in Morocco, all coexisting peacefully with their Muslim neighbours.

Today, only a handful remain, although Morocco’s Jewish heritage is extremely rich and far from forgotten.

The story of the Jews of Morocco is long and complex, like the mountains in the Sahara desert, a trajectory of highs and lows.

The cuisine of the Sephardim is basically an assortment of cooking traditions that developed among the Jews of Spain and Portugal, with contributions from Jews of Iberian origin, who were dispersed in the Sephardi Diaspora, including Morocco.

Moroccan cuisine itself is influenced by its interactions and exchanges with other cultures and nations over the centuries.

Moroccan cooking is typically a Mediterranean mix: Arabic, Andalusian and Berber cuisine.

Fish is abundant in Morocco. With both the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea, you can find all kinds.

One of my favourites is rouget (as it is called in Morocco, using the French word), red mullet or barbounia, as it is known in Israel.

The small ones are great for deep frying, but the medium-sized ones are best grilled.

Ma’amoul Biscuits


For the biscuit dough:

  • 4 cups flour
  • ¾ tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup full fat milk (the heavier the better)
  • 225g butter
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 tsp almond essence

For the biscuit filling:

  • 500g date paste
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • 2 tbsp condensed milk


For the biscuit dough, place all ingredients together in a food processor and blend until a dough is formed. Do not overmix it.

In a separate bowl, mix your date paste, cinnamon, nutmeg and condensed milk until you have a nice, creamy mix.

Preheat your oven to 180°, line an oven tray with baking paper and start making with your biscuit dough as many ‘golf balls’ as you can.

Then wet your hands, flatten each of your golf balls with your finger, stuff them with the date mix, and close them back to a stuffed golf-ball size.

When finished shaping biscuits, place them in a tray and bake for around 25 minutes, or until they have a nice, golden colour.

Bring them out and set aside to cool. Once they have cooled and before serving, sprinkle with icing sugar and cinnamon. Serve with a nice mint tea after a meal.

(The Best) Moroccan Fish


  • 800g fresh bass or bream (clean fillets cut into 4 portions)
  • 4 small green peppers, cut in half
  • 1 small red chilli pepper, finely chopped with seeds
  • 8 garlic cloves, finely chopped.
  • 1 bundle of coriander, chopped
  • 1 cup of peeled and chopped fried tomatoes
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • ½ litre fish stock
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp hot paprika
  • ½ tsp red hot chilli pepper
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • Sea salt and pepper, to taste


Place a pan on a hot fire with a quarter of your olive oil and sauté your four pieces of fish fillet, 1 minute on each side, and leave to rest.

Put the leftover olive oil in a medium-size pot and start heating. When hot, add the green peppers and garlic. When nice and brown, add your chilli pepper, chopped tomatoes and wine, stirring all the time.

When wine has vaporised, add your stock, paprikas, red hot chili pepper, cumin, salt and pepper.

Once you have a good, consistent sauce going, place your fish fillets on top of the sauce, cover with coriander and cover the pot. Leave to cook for an extra 15 minutes.

Chicken Tajine with Almond & Dates


  • 1 medium-sized chicken cut into 8 pieces
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large onions chopped into 2½cm pieces
  • 1 strip lemon peel
  • 300g pitted dates or prunes
  • 20 blanched whole almonds
  • ½ cup fresh mint, chopped
  • ½ cup honey (you can use sugar)
  • 3 short cinnamon sticks
  • ½ tsp saffron
  • ¼ tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt


Combine half the oil and ground spices in a large bowl. Place chicken pieces and onion in the bowl with oil and spices. Heat the rest of the oil in a large skillet. When hot, put in the onion; and when brown, start searing the chicken, until brown on each side.

Add the remaining oil mixture and enough water to cover. Simmer until chicken is tender (for about 40 minutes). Add dates or prunes, lemon peel, cinnamon sticks and honey (or sugar).

Place all the ingredients into a tajine pot (if you don’t have a tajine pot, you can use Pyrex) and bake in a hot oven for 30 minutes. Bring out 10 minutes before serving.

Decorate with almonds and fresh mint before bringing to the table.

Grilled Barbounia with Soy Sauce and Sesame Oil Salsa


  • Red Mullet
  • Slice of garlic
  • Sprig of rosemary
  • Squeeze of fresh lemon
  • Dash of extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Black pepper


  • 2 tbsp soya
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 1 small red onion, very finely chopped
  • ¼ cup coriander
  • ¼ cup red peppers, very finely chopped
  • Salt to taste, as soy sauce is salty


Heat your grill to very hot. Rinse your fish and make a few little horizontal cuts on each fish.

Place a slice of garlic and some fresh rosemary in each cut. Place the fish on an oven tray.

Squeeze some fresh lemon juice and drizzle some extra virgin olive oil on them, add sea salt and black pepper, and grill for 15 minutes.

For the salsa, mix ingredients very well and, just before serving, pour the salsa over each fish. Serve with a mixed green salad.

Chestnut Parfait


  • 400g chestnut puree
  • 25g brandy or cognac
  • 200g sugar
  • 10 egg yolks
  • 150g double cream
  • 5 dates, finely chopped

Preferably, prepare the day before.

Make a syrup with the sugar (cover it with water and allow to boil until the water is absorbed) until it sticks to a metal spoon. Whisk the yolks, adding the sugar syrup slowly. Once most of the syrup is mixed in with the yolks, turn mixer on full power for 5 minutes.

Combine the chestnut puree and brandy/cognac; whip the double cream until creamy, not stiff. Fold the cream into the chestnut mix and carefully fold in the egg zabaglione (egg mixture).

Pour the mix into small containers and freeze for at least 6 hours. Take them out of the freezer 20 minutes before serving and decorate to your liking.

Note: Any cream will do, but the higher the fat content, the better.

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