As part of our tour, we had the opportunity to attend a cooking demonstration at the Restaurant Al Baraka in Marrakech. I was hoping it would be the type of cooking class where you prepare your own meal. Instead, it was a demonstration on how to fix traditional couscous dishes. It would have taken too long if we had actually tried to cook our own meal. But I am sure we could have found plenty to do in the neighboring Medina while we waited for our meals to cook. The demonstration was still interesting to watch...and our lunch was waiting for us when we finished!
We walked through an outdoor patio area to a private room in the back of the restaurant for the demonstration. The room was not yet set up for the demonstration, but staff members quickly assembled the necessary ingredients for making the couscous as our instructor, a Moroccan grandmother, prepared to show us how the dish is made. Our guide served as an interpreter, allowing us to ask questions during the demonstration.
The couscous is made from a base of semolina with spices added in. Flour, water and oil are added in portions only truly known by our instructor. She didn't measure anything, rolling the couscous and adding ingredients as needed to get the consistency she wanted. It is an art form. She used a large basket and a wire mesh container to get a uniform result. She worked the couscous around the clay platter inside the basket with deft hands that seemed to feel the precise gauge of the granules as they moved beneath her hands. Her movements were as graceful as they were tactical. She worked with the confidence and ease of a woman who has created this dish thousands of times. As I am sure she has.
After demonstrating the process for creating the couscous, she demonstrated the method for layering the flavors of the meat and vegetables. In this case, it was a variety of root vegetables and goat. She didn't actually cook it, as it would have taken a long time between each set of ingredients. Instead, she worked with raw vegetables and then used a stew that had already finished cooking to demonstrate the ornate plating. Moroccans seem to put a great deal of effort into presentation, which is appreciated. She carefully stacked the root vegetables on a bed of couscous ensuring to stagger the vegetables to create an attractive pattern.
After we finished the demonstration, we returned to the patio area for lunch. We were told we could eat inside or outside, whichever we preferred. The restaurant is large, giving us many options on where we wanted to eat. It was a pleasant day, so we decided to eat our lunch on the patio beneath the umbrellas of the patio tables. The umbrellas provided just enough shade to make for a comfortable outdoor meal. The food was served family style in proportions that were ridiculous. There was no way we could eat that amount of food. And it was delicious.
Lunch started with some pastries that I forgot to photograph. They were very tasty and slightly sweet. I detected a wafting of rose water or possibly orange blossom water on the pastry. The pastry was followed by a variety of Moroccan vegetable dishes that included eggplant, potatoes, carrot, beans and squash. The vegetables were a meal in and of themselves. I could have eaten just that and have been satisfied with my lunch.
When the main course arrived, we gorged ourselves on freshly made couscous and vegetables. The food was amazing. The class was fun to watch, the meal was delicious, the setting was awesome. All around, it was a fun way to spend our lunch at the medina. I would definitely recommend the experience. But if you don't have time, then I would still recommend the restaurant. The food was amazing. One of the best meals we had in Morocco.
Al Baraka Restaurant is located at 1, Place Jamâa El Fna, Marrakech, Maroc, 40000، Marrakesh 40000, Morocco. It is just off the main medina area in Marrakech. They open each day at 10 AM and close at midnight. We were not there in the evening, but I believe they also have live entertainment at night. Is it tourist-y? Yes, of course. But it was a fun experience nonetheless. (We paid fifty dollars each for the meal and cooking demonstration, so it was not an inexpensive experience. But it was worth the money).
The title photo was taken from the restaurant home page. The rest of the photos are my own. They may be reproduced with prior permission.