The cuisine of Morocco is becoming increasingly well-known abroad and a popular holiday activity is a cookery class where students can learn about the intricate blends of spices, the diverse influences on Moroccan cuisine and attempt to create their own culinary masterpieces. Over the past year, I have tried two cookery classes in Essaouira – one a well-established brand, the other a homely newcomer. I enjoyed both immensely, even though I could already make some key Moroccan dishes. If you want to do a cookery class in Essaouira, I recommend one of these two options.
Attached to the Table by Madada restaurant in a former almond warehouse, L’Atelier Madada is a well-run and popular cookery school. Students at the morning classes prepare their own lunch – usually two courses, and in the afternoons courses are offered on Moroccan pastries. The first to reserve gets to choose the menu. Each student has his or her own workstation and ingredients and instruction is offered by the formidable Mouna. She comes across as strict as a school headmistress, but she always has a glint in her eye as she tells students to treat the ingredients with a firm hand and not pussy-foot around when chopping the onions. The classes are well-run, carefully organised and the whole experience is very slick. While Mouna minds the bubbling tajines, her interpreter, who translates the class into French or English depending on the group, takes the budding chefs off to the spice souk to learn more about Morocco’s essential ingredients. By the time we got back, lunch was served. With the caveat of one’s own cooking skill and ability to follow instructions, this is restaurant-quality Moroccan cuisine. At our class, we prepared za’aluq (a cooked salad of tomato and aubergine which resembles fine ratatouille) and an exquisite tajine of filet of sea bream seasoned with confit lemons. I learned plenty of new techniques to improve my existing repertoire, which I still use today.
Go to Atelier Madada for a well-run, slick operation that will help you make stunning dishes in a group-learning environment (max. 8 persons). Morning classes cost 500dh (for 4.5 hours), patisseries classes cost 220dh (1.5 hours). Website: http://www.lateliermadada.com
New to the Essaouira culinary tuition scene, Khadija’s Kuzina is already a bit hit with travellers and local expats. Based in the home of cook, Khadija, classes are absolutely adaptable to the needs and wishes of the client. Typically, Khadija shows groups of 2-4 how to prepare classic Moroccan dishes, while she also creates a side dish of her own invention as an accompaniment. It’s a well-known truism that the best food in Morocco is found in the home, and Khadija is an enthusiastic cook, teacher, wife and mother. She masters Moroccan classics and enjoys experimenting with new flavour combinations and special dietary needs such as low-fat or gluten-free regimes. With Khadija, I not only overcame my fear of couscous (I found it far too intimidating to take on a dish perfected by all of my husband’s female relatives) but made it vegetarian style, and with bdez, a gluten-free cornmeal. Khadija was also happy for me to invite a couple of friends over to share the fruits of my labour, alongside her family. Khadija is learning English, and is assisted by her husband Hassan and local Peace Corps Volunteer, Olivia. Her classes are extremely flexible – amateur cooks can be as hands on or hand off as they like – and she can also deliver Moroccan home cooking to your home or holiday rental.
Go to Khadija’s Kuzina if you want an insight into real Moroccan home cooking and want to experience the warm Moroccan welcome. Be prepared to muck in and share your end result with the family, but don’t worry – they are kind critics! Prices depend on the dish, complexity and numbers, but average 500dh per couple including ingredients, tuition and the meal itself. Check out Khadija’s Facebook page.