We were in a small group of six people, and started the day by being taken through the souks of Fez by the chef of Palais Amani as well as one of the members of hotel staff, as an interpreter and guide, as the chef spoke only Arabic. Our first stop was a tiny local stall, which served a thick bean soup with hunks of bread where we all bunched inside and were given a bowl each. It was really great to be able to be taken to a stall which the chef knew would not upset our stomachs, as can be a risk for tourists, so this was a real treat which otherwise we would not have found! Then we spent a further 45 minutes or so going around vegetable stalls, meat stalls and spice shops, with a running commentary from our guide on the different foods and local customs. We finished off with a stop in a mint tea stall, where we were all given a large glass of the quintessential Moroccan favorite! The cost of the tea and soup we’d had was included in the price of the workshop. It was really great having the chance to spend some time in the market with a local guy who speaks English and be able to ask whatever questions you might not otherwise be able to. Throughout of tour we spoke about food (obviously), but also religious dress, daily life, customs, holidays, leisure time etc.
Back at the riad we were equipped with aprons, clipboards and the recipes for our lunch, and the cookery table was piled up with everything the chef had just bought at the market. For the next hour and a half, or so, we were taught how to make a traditional chicken tagine, a vegetable one (my girlfriend is vegetarian), an incredibly delicious side dish of charred aubergine and tomato, and a simple but lovely orange salad for dessert. It was great to see just how much of each spice to put in the dishes (and hence why my attempts at Moroccan food back home had been lacking something!), as well as new techniques in preparing and cooking the veg.
Afterwards we all sat down and had our food served back to us in the splendour of the riad’s courtyard. It was a really great way to spend half a day or so and a rare chance to get an insider’s tour of the market. Finally we were handed a little basket of spices each, and, as well as the basket being rather nice, the spices have been put to good use back home where I have in fact had friends over and cooked some of the dishes we learned…and they worked!