Since we are heading into their home town, I will like to you to introduce you to the most wonderful tour people from Merzouga that made our trip a reality: from Morocco Expert Tours : Hamid and Youssef, our tour guides, and Mohammed, our driver. These folks customized our tour from day one with unique sights every day and they were patient with all my food-related photo opportunities!
It was a scenic drive en route to Merzouga. I was excited to see the date palms with their fruit just ripening. I was told that in October there are date festivals when all the dates are at their peak of ripeness.
We arrived at our riad for the evening and as usual, we were greeted by our host with mint tea.
We took the mint tea and some roasted almonds, a regular treat, to the patio to relax until dinner.
It was such a lovely romantic dinner too. We were the only guests in the restaurant at that hour and we were told to sit and relax and the meal would be forthcoming…No menu, no thinking, just enjoy the ambience and the pampering. Again, we enjoyed the beautiful array of vegetable salads, carrot, peppers, potato and cucumber, topped off with a rice salad and delicious Moroccan black olives.
Our tagine of the evening was beef and vegetables, topped with two fried eggs and sprinkled with fresh parsley. Flavours were warm and mellow.
Please check out the chicken/chickpea tagine recipe that I have posted earlier this year. And be prepared for another tagine coming soon, now that I have first hand Moroccan experience.
The next morning, we are driven to the souk in Rissani, a half hour drive away. Mountains of ripened dates were for sale in many stalls.
The stall below had dates at various stages of ripeness. We tried a sample of the ripe shrivelled brown ones, so sweet and delicious; these are the ones we are familiar with at home. However, I have done some research and discovered that some dates will continue to ripen off the tree, while other dates are eaten yellow.
I had to share this colourful mound of dried rosebuds that can be one of the ingredients in Ras El Hanout spice blend (to see my recipe using rosebuds, click here).
The photo below is one of the stalls that we passed with cinnamon sticks and various dried green herbs.
This kind gentleman tested me by pointing at all his bins of spices and asking me what they were. I knew every one. I bought some saffron and Ras El Hanout, made from 44 spices (I had to believe him) and then he let me take his picture with me.
I loved the displays. The more common spices were in these open bins.
The more expensive or special blends, such as Ras El Hanout, are stored in glass jars.
This looks like a simpler spice blend, to show the individual spices added, before mixing together. I see turmeric, cumin, paprika, cayenne and ginger in this bin.
Our souk visit ended with a local delicacy called Berber Pizza at a restaurant with our tour folks and other guests. More like a calzone, a stuffed pizza pocket and the filling was extremely unique. Ground beef, chopped egg, chopped parsley, onions, almonds and spices. Interesting……
And now, on to our camel ride into the Sahara Desert.