This virtual Moroccan cooking class is perfect for travellers. It's fun, easy, and - best of all - delicious!
There's nothing so lovely as a homemade meal when you're travelling and I learned firsthand just how delicious a Moroccan tagine with chicken, potato, zucchini, carrots, preserved lemon, and saffron can be when you share it with friends. But I wasn't in someone's home and I certainly wasn't in Morocco! Yet that's what it felt like when I took a virtual Moroccan cooking class with Khmisa and Kawtar, a mother-daughter team based near Rabat.
In pre-COVID times, Khmisa and Kawtar hosted in-person cooking classes. However, like so many small business owners, they've had to pivot with the times and now people from all over the world can join them in their kitchen - virtually, of course - to cook and chat with them. While I would have dearly loved to be cooking with them in person, connecting with them over Zoom was an absolute delight. I was the only person in the class and it felt like I was enjoying a wonderful time with my new girlfriends. In between instructions to marinate my chicken, prepare a delicious appetizer, and get my spices just right, we spoke about what foods are popular here in Ottawa, the challenges of lockdown, and - of course - food.
I booked this experience through Airbnb (you can see their class here) and it only cost me about $23 with the exchange rate, making this one of the best travel deals I've ever enjoyed. And I didn't even have to leave my house! Here's what it was like in my virtual Moroccan cooking class.
I received my ingredient list in advance and assembling all the necessary ingredients was easy at my local market. Like in past virtual cooking classes, there were a few mysteries along the way - mysteries like zucchinis. How small is too small? How big is too big? Is a Moroccan zucchini the same as a Canadian one? (Turns out, not really - my hosts were intrigued when I told them about my massive summer garden zucchinis!) But, just like before, I realized that virtual cooking classes are designed for a bit of flexibility. If you have something that's a bit bigger or smaller than planned, the hosts are ready to work with what you have on hand. They're pros!
This particular cooking class was especially wonderful for me because I FINALLY was able to crack open a jar of preserved lemons I picked up years earlier at the cutest little spice shop imaginable in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. See, I wasn't just going crazy in a cozy seaside store. I was preparing! Preparing for amazing Moroccan food! Add in the fact that I was finally had a recipe requiring saffron (we paid a small fortune for a tiny jar in the Istanbul spice market and we truly have no idea what to do with it) and you have a very satisfying day in my world. (For those of you worrying where on earth you'd find preserved lemons, using fresh lemons was indeed an option. Saffron was optional!)
I have to give myself an extra pat on the back because I had the foresight to pick up a package of naan bread. Cooking means sauces and sauces means DELICIOUS. Having some fresh bread on hand was a brilliant choice for sopping up all the delectable juices. Totally optional but is bread ever a bad idea? Nope.
An hour or so of class time doesn't sound like a lot of time when you're preparing an appetizer and main dish with two recipes you've never made before but I was able to follow Khmisa and Kawtar's instruction with no problems at all. Just look at my gorgeous appetizer (pictured above)! I appreciate that they were so prepared to deal with whatever ingredients I might have on hand - for instance, they were ready with instructions for both chicken thighs and chicken breasts for the tagine. (And speaking of a tagine: it is both the name of a kind of dish AND the traditional vessel said dish is made in. If, like me, you don't own a tagine you can still make a tagine-based recipe using a covered pot).
Khmisa and Kawtar are able to adapt their class for vegetarians and told me how they use their tagine recipe to make a cauliflower version and a chickpea version for themselves at home. With their techniques by my side, I feel like I can confidently recreate this recipe - or different vegetable versions of it - in the future. As someone who subscribes to a CSA (community shared agricultural) box in spring, summer, and fall, we often find ourselves in a situation of vegetable overload (who can forget the week we had six cauliflower in our fridge?) I love that tagines can be a creative solution to our garden overload!
When class came to an end, my belly and heart were very full - and my kitchen was pretty messy! It was a small price to pay for a wonderful experience. I loved my time cooking with Khmisa and Kawtar and I'm grateful for the opportunity to gain a little insight into their lives and culinary culture. While I can't claim that a virtual Moroccan cooking class is a substitute for going there in person, it absolutely is the next best thing and now I'm hungry for more - more food, more cooking, and more travel!
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