Cooking at La Maison Arabe Marrakesh

Not only is Morocco famous for the Sahara Desert, but they are known for their spices! The various spices available in Morocco gives Moroccan cuisine its unique and delicious tastes. Being a cooking fanatic, I knew I had to take a cooking class during my trip in Marrakesh. I found a class with La Maison Arabe, a legendary hotel and restaurant, that offers private and shared classes with the option of being onsite or participating in their private gardens cooking class. I originally booked the private garden option but my plans were changed last minute so I had to take the regular shared cooking class at the hotel, which was still a great experience, nevertheless!

What’s Included?

Price: 600 MAD per person (~$84 CAD)
Duration: 3 Hours (3PM-6PM)
Courses: 1 Appetizer, 1 Entree, and 1 Dessert
Location: Derb Assehbi, Marrakesh 40000, Morocco

Here is a description of the class from their website:

“The workshops are conducted by a dada (traditional Moroccan cook) or a chef from our Moroccan restaurant, and are held at the hotel. Small groups of maximum 10 participants work alongside a translator (Arabic/English/French), using easy-to-use modern equipment found in everyday kitchens. At the end of each workshop, participants dine on the meal they have prepared. At a typical half-day workshop, one learns to prepare an appetizer and a main dish, or a main dish and dessert. Details upon request.”

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The Class

Upon arrival, I was introduced to a small group of around 6 people (this class can go up to around 26 people) and a hostess who first gave us a brief introduction to Moroccan cuisines and the spices that are commonly used in their dishes. Another lady then greeted us and showcased the process of making the Moroccan mint tea, which uses a lot of sugar, commonly from sugar cone. The host explains to us that Moroccan prefers very dark tea and a lot of sugar.

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Our host then took us to a Communal Ovens, which is a shared oven that local Moroccan use and share together. City Nibbler, or Mikelle Hembree, describes this beautifully below:

“A communal oven is an oven that the community members share and use together. In Morocco, using a communal oven to bake your bread and other baked goods is the norm. The ovens are ran by workers whose primary job is to bake the edible goods of the community in the large oven, the majority of which is bread. Even the very few families that do have their own ovens in their homes usually prefer to use the communal ovens over their home oven. Why? It saves them time, saves them money in fuel, and also helps them avoid heating up their homes in the dead of summer.”

It was amazing seeing the communal oven still being used today because it gives off a very strong sense of community and shared value. We tend to idolize beautiful and luxurious bakeries in North America that we forget the rich culture, history and authenticity that lies behind this very communal oven.

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After the communal oven tour, everyone was guided back to the hotel and led upstairs to where the classroom was. I must say that the decor of La Maison Arabe was absolutely stunning. It was impeccably clean, luxurious and had beautiful Moroccan decors all over the place. We are then introduced to our Dada, a traditional Moroccan cook, or our teacher, who started off with greeting us on our live streamed video from the tablet in front of everyone’s stations. I thought this was pretty cool, considering that there will be people, like myself, who may  have a harder time seeing the Dada at the very front. Our Dada then proceeded to showing us how to make the traditional Khobz bread, the Zaalouk Salad for appetizer, the chicken tagine for entree, and Ktefa (Milk Bastilla) for dessert.

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The Zaalouk salad is a cooked salad made with grilled eggplant, tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and spices. It’s a common side dish and is usually served as a dip with Khobz bread. Our entree was a chicken tagine, which is a Maghrebi dish named after the earthenware pot in which it is cooked; the lid has a unique cone shape to collect vapor at the top as the meal cooks in the pot to prevent the food from drying. Finally, Ktefa, or Milk Bastilla, is this delicious crispy almond pastry that is layered with sweetened almonds and a milk or custard sauce, called creme Anglaise and scented with orange flower water; this dessert was an absolute delight. It took approximately 2.5 hours to finish cooking, then we were led to the dining room where they had a man playing traditional Moroccan music in the background. Our food was brought to us from the staff, which were plated nicely and we all sat and chit chat among the table.

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My experience cooking with La Maison Arabe was an absolute delight and I wish I could have tried out their private garden cooking class, instead, which would have been 6 hours long, and you would also get the privilege of seeing their private gardens where they have a private oven and produces grown in the garden. Nevertheless, this cooking experience have opened my eyes to many things such as spices and the use of communal oven. The class itself is quite expensive, so if you are traveling on a budget, you can certainly find cheaper options at a different company because I would still highly recommend everyone to partake in a cooking class in Morocco where you can learn so much about their spices and history through their cuisine!

PART 1: MARRAKESH, MOROCCO
PART 2: OUARZAZATE, MOROCCO
PART 3: ZAGORA DESERT, MOROCCO

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