Not only are all of our ingredients sourced from within 3 miles of the Riad, but we also have the most amazing array of fresh spices at our finger tips. Our trip to the local market is always a firm favourite with our guests, so they can marvel at the spice mountains, and absorb the different smells from the toasting spices, on the various food carts.

A lot of our guests are surprised at how the depth and variety of flavours in our Moroccan dishes can be accomplished using the same few herbs and spices, and merely changing the ratios. As well as imparting warm flavours in the dishes, the spices have an a variety of natural properties that can benefit your day-to-day wellbeing, if they form part of your diet.

So today, I have raided my kitchen cupboard to give you an insight to the everyday herbs and spices we use, and their benefits.

Turmeric:

The main active ingredient is cur cumin, which is an anti-inflamitory, and a strong antioxidant. A great way to incorporate turmeric into your diet is turmeric milk. You can either use turmeric powder or turmeric root to make the warm drink. A word of warning though, it’s a bit like Marmite, you either love it or you hate it! Check out our first blog in mAY for a recipe.

If you wanted a more subtler way of adding turmeric, it’s a great spice to add when you’re cooking a particularly fatty dish, as it also helps to make the fat  more soluble.

Cinnamon:

Cinnamon is a great spice and massively under used. It comes from the bark of the china-momum tree, and not only is it an antioxidant but it is also natural sweetener. It can be used in tea, coffee, and baked goods instead of refined sugar, to reduce your overall calorie and sugar intake.

I really enjoy cinnamon tea, either add cinnamon stick to a tea-pot of water or use powder. If you’re using the powder I would recommend first mixing with a small quantity of tepid water to form a paste, before adding a larger quantity of water. One tip, if yourcinnamon-stick-cinnamon-powder-spice-flavoring-47046.jpeg making this tea, use water that hasn’t quite boiled; if you use boiling water, it can sometimes burn teas, and spices, giving the drink a bitter taste.

Cinnamon is also a natural insecticide, and can be used on the ground to reduce insect problems.

Saffron:

Saffron is a major export for Morocco, although it isn’t widely grown in the country. Taliouine, in the south of Morocco, and the Ourika Valley, near Marrakech are the most  renowned.

Saffron is harvested from beautiful purple crocus flowers, and is most commonly known for being the most expensive spice in the world. This is down to the crocus-bloom-spring-close-37866.jpeglabour-intensive  way that the saffron is harvested.

Saffron imparts a really distinctive flavour and aroma to food, and although used regularly in Moroccan cooking, it’s used sparingly.

Saffron is rich in magnesium, manganese, potassium, and vitamin C; offering a range of benefits, from boasting your immune system, to aiding the regulation of blood sugar levels. Most of the health properties are attributed to the crocin present.

Although typically Moroccans add saffron to food, some areas enjoy saffron as a tea, either  steeping a couple of saffron strands directly in water, or making hot saffron milk. If you have eaten a large meal before bed or suffer from insomnia, a hot saffron milk before bed, can aid digestion, and help you fall into a natural sleep.

In the western world, saffron is now being used more and more in beauty products. The active ingredients can help improve dry skin and damaged hair. Our first blog in May, we will be telling you about some great natural remedies, including some home skin and hair treatments.

As much as we love saffron though, our suggestions do come with a word of warning; if you suffer from one of the following, do not consume excessive amounts of saffron if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, taking blood pressure medication, or have a heart condition, unless recommended by your doctor.

Ginger:

Ginger can be used in lots of different forms, but in Morocco we mainly use fresh ginger root and it’s powdered form. It’s unique fragrance and flavour, come from the natural oils, gingerol being the main one.

Like a lot of the spices used in Moroccan cooking, ginger has anti-inflammatory, and anti-oxidant properties, however its most effective use is in the treatment of nausea, and particularly morning sicknesspexels-photo-206713.jpeg

Although when I was pregnant and suffering with horrific morning sickness, I just ingested copious amounts of ginger nut biscuits, which did nothing for my waistline. There are much more effective ways of using ginger as a natural remedy without having to indulge as much as I did.

Again, ginger can be enjoyed as a tea, but if you’re looking to incorporate a couple of the Moroccan spices that we’ve mentioned, you could end up drinking an awful lot of the stuff! We now grow ginger root at the Riad, so one thing that we have started doing is pickling it. It is so easy to do, and although pickling isn’t necessarily associated with Morocco, it’s actually a really traditional aspect of Moroccan cookery that is gradually being lost. Pickling was a practice widely used in the Arab culture to preserve food, but is much more prevalent in other Arab nations. If you visit Istanbul for instance, they have some amazing pickle shops.

We also regularly add ginger to a variety of our fresh juices, particularly if anyone has a cold. One thing to remember when you’re incorporating ginger with juices, is be careful what you mix it with, as this may counteract the properties that you’re trying to harness. For example, if your trying to treat nausea, don’t mix ginger with orange-based juices, as the acidity of the orange, counteracts the gingerol.

Garlic:

Garlic is part of the onion family, and contains allicin, which is activated once its chopped, crushed, or chewed. It’s also the allicin which gives garlic its recognisable smell. I love the taste of garlic, which is fortunate as we use it a lot at the Riad. It’s nearly always one of the elements used when cooking a Moroccan fish or vegetable dish.

Besides from its great taste garlic is said to reduce high blood pressure, and LDL cholesterol levels.

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Coriander:

Fresh coriander is another one of those mandatory ingredients with Moroccan cooking, it goes in everything, although they only use fresh leaves. I’ve never seen powdered coriander (not even at the french supermarket), and inadvertently offended my mother-in-law when I suggested that I might add this to our food. Coriander is by far one of the easiest herbs to grow, and costs very little to buy in Morocco, this perhaps being one of the contributing factors towards using the fresh stuff.

It’s actually the coriander seeds and oil that holds the majority of  the therapeutic benefits, and if you’re using ground coriander, then you will more than likely be consuming, dried and ground coriander seeds.

 Traditionally coriander powder was used as a preservative, due to the active ingredient dodecenal, a natural antibiotic, which is particularly effective at fighting salmonella. Consuming Coriander seeds/powder with food, can reduce the risk of contracting food poisoning. Along with fighting food poisoning, coriander is said to aid symptoms of IBS, by relaxing contracted digestive muscles.

Coriander seeds can be used to reduce the symptoms of a urinary infection: Soak 1 1/2 teaspoons of coriander seeds in two cups of water over night; strain and drink, or incorporate into your morning smoothie or porridge.

Cumin:

You would be amazed at how cumin goes with pretty much anything. Before I learnt to cook Moroccan food, I had alway thought of it as a very overpowering spice, to be used only on occasion and very sparingly. A view that has now changed for the better. I’ve learnt to use it in a way that adds warmth to a dish, rather than stifling the other flavours.

Cumin seeds are the fruit seeds from the herb cumin cyminum, which is from the parsley family. Cumin is believed to aid an extensive list of aliments, which include: heart disease, hemmorides, inflammation, insomnia, vomiting, weekend immune systems, and viral infections.

At the Riad, we just view it as a really good all-rounder. Cumin is packed full of fibre, along with an array of other good things, such as vitamin C. We use cumin in most of our salads and vegetable dishes, and often use cumin with cinnamon, as a replacement for chillies, if we are wanting to make a dish spicy.

Cumin seeds can be consumed whole, and are a great way to start experimenting. Just toast them off in a warm pan and start adding them as texture to dishes, so on the top of a soup, salad, or humus.

Paprika:

Paprika isn’t really a spice that I associated with Morocco, but it’s used regularly, much more so than fresh chillies.

Paprika is rich in vitamin A, which our bodies use for an array of thing such as maintaining normal vision, reproduction, and the immune system. Paprika has quite a range of flavours that don’t really come out unless you warm it, and then all of the flavours are released.

In Moroccan cooking, Paprika normally forms part of a spice blend that is used as a marinade, particularly for prawns, and is applied fairly liberally, when cooking courgette, aubergines, and cauliflower.

At the minute we don’t really use paprika in another way, so if you have any suggestions for us to try that would be great, and we’ll keep you posted on how well they went down with our guests!

Please note: The benefits of all the above mentioned herbs and spices are well documented, so please do you own research if you’re looking to see how best you can incorporate them into you daily diet. What we try to keep in mind when developing dishes at the Riad, is balance! It’s about balancing these spices to benefit from their amazing properties and flavours. We try not to use any one herb or spice too excessively;  too much of a good thing and all that.

 

 

If you’ve booked yourself onto one of our retreat’s or cookery holiday’s, chances are you will be exploring the local area with us. Here are few of things you might get to see.

Biougra town & Market

The Riad is situated in a traditional village just outside Biougra town. Monday is market day, and a chance for guests to experience how the locals shop. We are very much, off the main tourist route, so you’re treated as a local (which means local prices), and will probably not see another tourist in town. So if you want to experience Morocco through the eyes of a Moroccan, this is the place to come!

I love the Monday market; the smells, colours, and noises are nothing like you would experience in other parts of the world. Everyone is very friendly and knows our family. They will know that you are staying with us, so there is no chance of getting lost. I can honestly say, if I left our 5-year-old in town, he would be returned home within half an hour, safe and sound, and would probably have been fed on the way.

 In a tourist area, you might get some hassle from persistent market sellers, but it’s really not like that here. Everyone will want to talk to you, but it’s to say hello, or get you to try the fruit they are selling.  The market here really is a one-stop shop, and reminds me of the old Maidstone Market my grand parents would take me around as a child, 30 years ago. It’s an amazing assault on your senses. You will definitely be able to get some unique and beautiful things here.

Taroudant

Taroudant is a beautiful city, pretty much untouched by tourism, and only 30 minutes drive to the East of Biougra.

Unlike Agadir, whose city centre was flattened in the 1950’s as a result of an earthquake, Taroudant has one of the best-preserved old cities in Morocco. The medieval city walls stretch 7.5 Kilometres, with 130 towers, and 19 bastions.

Of course, they have a couple of really good markets for you to bargain for treasures. Similarly to Biougra, the vendors are typically not aggressive, and really keen to help.

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Paradise valley

Paradise valley is a 11/2 hour  drive from the Riad but it’s worth it. You will set off in the morning, driving up to the hills, where you will have a short, guided walk to a favourable spot. You will have the day to enjoy swimming in the natural rock pools. Our staff prepare a tagine the old fashioned way, over the campfire. Depending on the stay you’re booked onto, you may even get to join a yoga or mindfulness session while you’re there.

Agadir centre & souk

The trip into Agadir offers a complete contrast to the areas in and around the Riad. Agadir is a city driven by tourism. The Souk is a permanent fixture, with a good mix of things for locals and tourists, and well worth the look. You will be sure to find a few interesting presents but you will notice the price difference. Make sure you haggle, as they will over-charge you, if they can get away with it.

Agadir has a beautiful bay, with a boardwalk that stretches the length of the city. The beach is always busy in the summer months with locals but reasonably empty for the rest of the year. In the last couple of years, the local government have taken the time to clean the city beach, which makes for a much more enjoyable visit.

While in the city, you will get the opportunity to visit the highest point overlooking the bay. The Kasbah is set upon a hillside, just back from the water-front. It provides an amazing view across the bay and the city.

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Beaches

Our nearest beach is ‘Tifnit’, its not a beach well know to tourists, so it’s normally empty outside the Moroccan holidays. Just a short drive from the Riad, our guests enjoy the quiet, the sun and calm waters, and to add to the experience we provide a Moroccan picnic. Evening yoga is often held on the beach, as the sun sets.

There are several other beaches within driving distance, and time permitting we do take guests to those beaches, however, they are particularly busy, but provide a good environment for beginner and intermediate surfers, should you choose to bolt on surf lessons to your stay.

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One of the first things we introduced to our garden was a vegetable & herb patch. We wanted to make sure that we knew where, and how all the food that was cooked and consumed at the Riad had been grown. If we couldn’t meet the demand from our garden, the fruit and vegetables are sourced from one of the two farms situated either side of the Riad, both within 3 miles.

We’ve had some great successes, some fails, and plenty of lessons learnt, but the time has come to increase the size of our veggie patch. As we have developed the garden and the different functioning spaces we have failed to find a workable space. So they are on the move!!

We are lucky enough to have a small lot of land, a few hundred meters from the Riad. We  are in the process of building a perimeter wall, before we start work on establishing our new veggie patch. We will also be moving our chickens and sheep to the new site, because as much as we love having them, they cause a lot of trouble.

The one thing that will be staying is the herbs. Noah is desperate to have his own area of the garden to look after, so we are dedicating an area of the roof terrace to a potted herb garden. Watch this space, and we will keep you up dated on Noah’s antics!!

Sarah xx

 

 

We have had to say goodbye to a group from Ashtanga Yoga Limerick. They were an amazing group of people for us to host, and we can’t wait for you all to come back.

They had a jam packed week, with yoga twice a day, and sightseeing. They got to explore Biougra (our local town), and the surround area, and beaches; a visit to Agadir souk;  have a surf lesson; a visit paradise valley; a visit Essaouira; and we treated them to Moroccan picnics, of Couscous and tagine.

Plus A big thank you to Christine, who delivered such good quality yoga throughout the holiday.  Yoga sessions took place on our roof terrace; next to the waterfalls; and there was even acroyoga on the beach.

If your thinking of staying with us, check out our Facebook page for the reviews!

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Typically Moroccans burn their waste, and as a result the previous owners of the riad, had dug a big pit, filled it full of rubbish, and done just that.

We wanted to start the garden project off on the right foot, so in the lead up to Christmas, we spent our time clearing the site and disposing of the waste responsibly. In total we removed 15 crates of rubbish.

Now our two keen gardeners Brad, and Will have the mammoth job of planting hundreds of trees and plants, to create a secret garden, where you can hide with a book, forage in the fruit trees or collect veg for the days cookery class………….We will keep you posted!!

After what seems like a long 6 months, we are happy to reveal some of our newly refurbished bedrooms.

All of our rooms have been restored using traditional Moroccan paster work, with hand made furniture, and finished with locally made rugs.

To celebrate the launch of our new website, we’re offering a 20% discount for all new bookings for our residential cookery courses, made by the 30th November.

The discount will be taken off of the total cost of your holiday.

Don’t delay! Check out our availability today!

As someone who has spent the last five years getting to grips with Moroccan culture, here are a few tidbits for unsuspecting travelers:

  • Did you know, that traditionally Moroccan’s eat five times a day! And big meals, not just little snacks;
  • If a Moroccan says no, they really mean yes! If you welcome a Moroccan into your house and you ask them if they would like a drink, make it anyway, even if they say no;
  • When a Moroccan visits a new baby, they are obliged to give the baby money;
  • Moroccan’s love a trip hazards!! Moroccan’s will never walk on a rug in the house with shoes on, so they take them off at the edge of the rug, leaving their shoes in the middle of the room for everyone else to fall over;
  • If anyone visits you, you are obliged to roll out the red carpet, at the very least with tea, home-made cakes, biscuits and breads; even if they are visiting because you are sick or unwell!

One of the things that we are most excited to share with our guests, is the variety and quality of fresh local produce available. As an integral part of our residential cookery courses, we will be taking our students on a tour of Agadir’s souk (market), where your senses become alive, with the sounds and smells of the thronging thoroughfares.

Expect to be approached by local sellers, who will undoubtedly try and entice you to buy their produce by giving you delectable samples and even, in some instances, making you cups of tea!

 

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One of the views from the Riad

We are so proud of what we are creating here at the Riad; an island of calm for our guests
to relax in. What better way to switch-off,
unplug and unwind, whilst immersing yourself in a new and diverse culture. We can offer guests, panoramic views of the surrounding countryside, as you learn to cook tradition Moroccan-fare, fro the roof terrace of the Riad.

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When our guests aren’t busy with their cookery classes, their is the option to relax in our on-site hammam (sauna) or take advantage of our free shuttle service into Agadir and the beach.

There are so many beautiful places to visit nearby; we look forward to sharing them all with you!