The traditional ending is fresh fruit, sometimes elaborately displayed, sprinkled with nuts or herbs and splashed with rosewater or orange flower water. A wide selection of sweet, juicy fruit, including figs, watermelon, apricots, plums, oranges and peaches is available and many of them are used for making fruit juices and syrups. In winter a bowl of raisins, dates, dried figs, almonds and walnuts may replace the fresh fruit.
Moroccans also enjoy Arab inspired milk puddings and the french-influenced ice creams as desserts on special occasions or as dishes eaten before the fresh fruit is served.
Not to be forgotten is the Moroccan’s love of sweet pastries and cakes – eaten at any time with tea – of course and sometimes they will fill up on sweet cakes before sitting down to a special occasion meal such as a wedding. Pastries and cakes deserve a separate posting so I will leave them for the moment and cover some simple examples of desserts which I’m sure you will enjoy as much as I have.
Moroccan Rice Pudding – serves 4
- 3/4 cup white short grain rice
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 2 1/2 cups of milk
- 2/3 cups confectioners sugar
- 2 tablespoons orange flower water
- 1/3 cup blanched almonds sauteed in a little butter until golden
- Rinse the rice under cold water, then put in a saucepan. Add 1 1/2 cups of water and the salt. Bring to a boil, then add the butter. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer, stirring regularly for 15 minutes or until the water is almost completely absorbed.
- Add the milk and sugar and increase the heat to high. Bring back to a boil, then reduce to medium and boil, uncovered for 5 minutes or until the mixture has the consistency of runny oatmeal or porridge. Stir the rice regularly so that is does not stick. If you prefer a thicker texture, boil for a few minutes longer, but remember that the pudding will continue to thicken as it cools.
- Add the orange flower water and let the mixture bubble for a few more minutes. Pour into a shallow serving bowl, cover with a clean cloth and leave to cool. Just before serving scatter the sauteed almonds allover the rice. Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled.
Many westerners find it hard to get used to fragrant flavourings, but the orange flower water imparts a delicate and sensuous taste to an otherwise plain pudding.
Watermelon and Pomegranate salad with rosewater and mint – serves 4-6
- 1 small ripe watermelon or 1 large wedge about 1.5 kg or 3 lb 5 oz
- 1 ripe pomegranate
- 2 tablespoons of rosewater
- 1-2 teaspoons of granulated sugar or honey (optional)
- Fresh mint leaves to decorate
- Remove the skin and seeds from the watermelon. Put the flesh on a plate to catch the juice and cut it into bite size cubes. Tip the cubes into a bowl or serving dish.
- Cut the pomegranate open on the same plate to catch the juice and scoop out the seeds, discarding any of the bitter membrane and pitch. Add the seeds to the watermelon.
- Pour the watermelon and pomegranate juices into a bowl and stir in the rosewater. If using, stir in the sugar or honey until it has dissolved. Pour the scented juice over the fruit and toss lightly. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Scatter the mint leaves over the top to decorate and serve chilled.
Figs in Syrup – serves 4-6
Dried figs are a popular snack food as they are, but in winter they are soaked and cooked with traditional Moroccan spices, turning them into a fruit compote. While not purely traditional, yoghurt can be served with them.
- 375g (13oz) dried figs
- Blanched almonds – 1 per fig
- 3 whole cloves
- 3 bruised cardamon pods
- 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 115g (4 oz/1/2 cup) caster (superfine) sugar
- Thinly peeled zest of 1/2 lemon
- 1 cinnamon stick
- yoghurt to serve
- Rinse the figs under cold running water and place in a bowl with fresh water to cover generously. Soak for 8 hours until plump.
- Drain the soaking water into a saucepan. Insert a blanched almond into each fig from the base. Tie spices in a piece of muslin (cheesecloth). Stir sugar into the soaking liquid in the saucepan over medium high heat until sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil, add the bag of spices, lemon zest, cinnamon stick and figs.
- Return to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook uncovered for 30 minutes until tender.
- Transfer figs to a serving dish with a slotted spoon and strain syrup over them. Serve warm or chilled with thick yoghurt.
Sweet couscous with cinnamon and pistachios – serves 4-6
Sweet couscous is popular as a snack or pudding. Generally it is served warm and you can add a variety of dried fruits and nuts to the mixture, such as apricots, almonds and pine nuts.
- 250g (9oz) fine couscous
- 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves
- 1-2 tablespoons of granulated sugar
- 300ml (10fl oz) boiling water
- 1 tablespoon of sunflower oil or melted butter
- 55g (2 oz) butter
- 115g (4oz) unsalted pistachio nuts
- 2-3 tablespoons of sultanas or raisins
- 125ml (4fl oz) milk
- 125ml (4fl oz) double cream
- 4 tablespoons of runny honey
- Put the couscous into a heatproof bowl and stir in the cinnamon, cloves and sugar. Pour in the boiling water, cover and leave the couscous for 10-15 minutes to absorb the water.
- Drizzle the oil over the couscous. Using your fingertips, rub the oil into the grains to break up the lumps and aerate them.
- Melt the butter in a heavy based frying pan, add the pistachios and cook over a medium heat, stirring for 1-2 minutes, or until they emit a nutty aroma. Add the sultanas to the nuts and cook until they have plumped up. Tip over the couscous and toss well. Spoon the couscous into individual bowls.
- In a small saucepan heat the milk and cream together, pour over the couscous in each bowl and drizzle the honey over the top. Serve immediately , while still warm