I include lots of variety and spices in my plant-based diet to keep it exciting and fun. Among my favorites are African dishes, and the food from North Africa tops my list. Moroccan cuisine is typically a mix of Mediterranean, Arabic, Andalusian and most importantly, Berber cuisine, with a tiny European and Sub-Saharan influence. Common flavorings include lemon pickle, cold-pressed, unrefined olive oil, harissa, and dried fruits. Like any other Mediterranean cuisine, the staple foods ingredients include fresh vegetables, some meat, wheat for couscous and bread, and olive oil. Grapes are often eaten as dessert. In this article, we’ll be leaving the meat behind and sharing mouthwatering plant-based Moroccan recipes.
Couscous originates from North Africa, and is the staple ingredient in the North African diet. Couscous is many tiny granules made from steamed and dried durum wheat. Couscous has become a popular alternative to rice and pasta. It has a light fluffy texture which is a little bland in flavor but which readily soaks up the flavors of other ingredients. The couscous that most of us pick up at the local grocery store is actually instant couscous. This is couscous that has already been steamed and dried for us. It only needs to be mixed with boiling water and allowed to sit undisturbed for a few minutes before being ready to eat.
A very common Moroccan meal is a tagine which is a North African stew of spiced meat and vegetables prepared by slow cooking in a shallow earthenware cooking dish with a tall, conical lid. The word tagine refers to both the conical-shaped dish and the stew cooked inside it. Tagines often combine sweet and savory foods to play off the spices used to season them. Wonderful tagines can be made without meat too!
Vegetable tagines are flavorful stews loaded with cooked vegetables and spices like cumin, coriander and ginger. Chickpeas are also often common additions. These offer vegetarians and vegans a wonderful opportunity to experience Moroccan fare. As with the meat-based counterparts, vegetable tagines are served over couscous for a true Moroccan meal. The veggie tagine recipe below is a complex mixture of wonderful textures, tastes, and spices that is certain to enchant your diners!
Note: Many Moroccan chefs choose to cut vegetables in large pieces. Once the tagine is ready, the colorful pieces can be laid out on top to create a very appealing dish.
VEGAN MOROCCAN RECIPES
(Click to access the full recipe and instructions.)
COUSCOUS (Prepare and serve with Tagine or Lentils)
1 cup instant couscous
1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil (may be omitted if desired)
1 cup water or broth
1/2 teaspoon salt
- Pour boiling water into a saucepan. Add olive oil and bring to a boil over high heat.
- Remove the pan from heat and add the couscous and salt. Stir to evenly moisten the couscous.
- Cover the pan and let it sit for 10 minutes. If the couscous hasn’t absorbed the water or still tastes crunchy after this time, cover and let it sit for a few more minutes.
- Gently break apart and fluff the cooked couscous with a fork before serving. If the rest of dinner isn’t quite done, re-cover the pan after fluffing to keep the couscous warm.
Here is another great Moroccan-inspired vegan dish!
Spices in Moroccan Cuisine
Spices are used extensively in Moroccan food to make a tagine or most other dish. Although some spices have been imported to Morocco through the Arabs for thousands of years, many ingredients — like saffron, mint, olives, oranges and lemons are home-grown, and are being exported internationally.
Harissa is a North African spice mixture, either as a powder or a paste. The main ingredient is roasted red peppers – other hot peppers are also included. Spices and herbs round out the mixture – such as garlic, coriander, saffron, rose, caraway and often some oil oil to enhance preservation. (Source: Wikipedia)
Berbere is a spice mixture often associated with Ethopian food but is also used in Morocco. It is usually includes chili peppers, cumin, garlic, coriander, ginger, basil, fengreek, black pepper, and other local spices. (Source: Wikipedia)
Cinnamon is native to Sri Lanka, formerly known as Ceylon and the south-eastern coast of India, while the closely related Cassia is native to China. It was used in ancient times and it is even mentioned in the Bible. It was brought to Europe and the rest of the world by the Portuguese. (Source: Wikipedia)
Cumin, is a small seed that comes for the Cuminum cyminum herb, a member of the parsley family. It is native to Iran and the Mediterranean. With its distinctive, strong, pungent flavor and odor, cumin, whether in seed or ground forms, is a staple of many cuisines. It is popular in Middle Eastern, Indian, Cuban, and Mexican cuisines. It is used in curry and chili powders, for instance. (Source: Wikipedia)
Coriander is native to regions spanning from southern Europe and North Africa to southwestern Asia. It is a soft, hairless plant growing to 50 cm (20 in) tall. The leaves are variously referred to as coriander leaves, fresh coriander, dhania, Chinese parsley, or (in the US and commercially in Canada) cilantro. (Source: Wikipedia).
Mint is known to have originated in Asia and the Mediterranean region. It has been known for its many benefits, both medicinal and culinary, throughout history. (Source: Wikipedia)
Garlic is native to Central Asia. It has a 7000 year history of use as a staple in the Mediterranean region, Asia, Africa and Europe. Now it is used internationally. (Source: Wikipedia)
Paprika is made from chilies which are native to central Mexico. It was brought to Spain in the 16th century. The trade in paprika expanded from Iberia to Africa and Asia, and ultimately reached Central Europe through the Balkans. The seasoning is also used to add color and flavor to many types of dishes. (Source: Wikipedia)
Saffron, long among the world’s most costly spices by weight, is native to Southwest Asia and was probably first cultivated in or near Greece. It was slowly propagated throughout much of Europe and Asia and was later brought to parts of North Africa, North America, Australia and surrounding islands, The styles and stigmata, called threads, are collected and dried to be used mainly as a seasoning and coloring agent in food. (Source: Wikipedia)
Piper nigrum (black pepper) is a flowering vine in the family Piperaceae, cultivated for its fruit, which is dried and used as a spice and seasoning. When dried, the fruit is known as a peppercorn. Black pepper is made from cooked unripe fruits which are dried and packed. If allowed to ripen, the fruit is dried and it becomes white pepper. Black pepper is native to south India and is extensively cultivated there and elsewhere in tropical regions. (Source: Wikipedia)
Cayenne pepper, known as red pepper in its powdered form, belongs to the Capsicum family, related to bell peppers, jalapeños, paprika, and others. The capsicums are ancient natives the New World. The oldest specimens are known to come from Mexico. From seeds found in caves and from ancient fossil feces, scientists have found that people ate this spice about 7,000 years ago. Explorers brought the pepper to Europe and the rest of the world. (Source: Wikipedia)
I sincerely hope you will try out some Moroccan inspired food for your plant-based eating! Please let us know how it goes in the comments box below.