Inside the Middle East
October 3, 2012
Posted: 1149 GMT

This month on 'Inside the Middle East', host Leone Lakhani traveled to Morocco's culinary capital, Fes, for a lesson in how to cook homemade, authentic Moroccan food.

In Fes, Lakhani met Lahcen Beqqi, who guides Moroccan and international tourists around his souq and kitchen, sharing his secrets to shopping, chopping, and eating like a local.  At just 32-years-old, Beqqi is already known as one of the top chefs in Morocco.

But what makes Moroccan cuisine so special?

It has to do with the nation's geographical and historical position as a crossroads for a number of different cultures and and traditions, according to Beqqi.

"Moroccan cuisine, it's a multicultural cuisine.  It brings together a lot of cultures, a lot of influences, from Berbers, Arabs, Jewish, French, and Mediterranean," Beqqi told CNN.  "It's not only food... it's history when you put on the table and see all of these influences.  It's very interesting."

And very tasty.

On the latest 'Inside the Middle East', Beqqi gave Lakhani step-by-step instructions to cook lamb tajine.  The following recipe is for a similar meal, reprinted with permission from Beqqi's "Lahcen’s Moroccan Recipes: A Collection of Easy and Light Variations on Some of the Finest Traditional Moroccan Recipes."

Lamb, Prune, and Date Tagine

This dish is a traditional Moroccan tagine. Because it is sweet and it includes dates, it is often served when a family has company over.

For 3 people

• 1⁄2 kilo of a shoulder of lamb, or beef, or one small chicken • 250 grams of dried prunes (around 30 prunes) • 6 dates (pitted) • one big red onion, sliced

• 200 grams of roasted almonds • 1 cinnamon stick • ginger • mrozia spice (ras l’hanoot) – if available • 1 pinch of saffron (pistils)

• salt (to taste) • pepper (to taste)

Wash the prunes and put them in one liter of water. Let them sit. Put olive oil and lamb into a big pot, or tagine. Cook on a high flame, turning the lamb on all sides. Add ginger, cinnamon, onion, ras l’hanoot and saffron. Turn down the flame to medium. Mix for one minute. Take the prunes out of the water and put them aside. Keep the water! Pour it into the pot with the lamb. Let the meat cook for 1 1⁄2 hours (or however long it takes to cook) on a low flame. Add salt and

8pepper. Add the prunes and dates in the last 15 minutes. Add the almonds when you serve the dish.

You can reach Beqqi through his website for more recipes or additional information.

Want to see more?  Follow 'Inside the Middle East' on Facebook.

Posted by:
Filed under: Culture •Inside The Middle East •Morocco

Share this on:
julien   October 12th, 2012 5:48 pm ET

Guys wake up! Morocco is not in the middle east, it's in north africa.
This tajine recipe is missing the point!
Missing the following ingredients:
hot pepper
pickled lemon
fresh coriander
no wonder some restaurants go out of business

Ghizlane   October 13th, 2012 11:31 pm ET

This is all true about Morocco cuisine.

However, Morocco is not in the Middle East. It's a North African country and should be put under the African section.

bill   October 15th, 2012 10:01 pm ET

Sounds real good, now send me the food.

Auth   October 21st, 2012 5:56 am ET

This is a great idea. I will put my image up and tell my friends to do the same.I am fvoerer reading about Arab bloggers being imprisoned on charges that sound as if they were written by a member of the Monty Python Crew. There have been a number of reports on this subject on the BBC and the British press. With each story I find myself signing a petition that is forgotten until I read about the next youth who has met a similar fate for equally absurd reasons. Has anyone read of similar stories in Africa or the Central Asia states. I would also like to find out if there is any communication between the various campaigns that I have signed to get bloggers freed does anyone know?

Richard   October 22nd, 2012 10:55 pm ET

??? Morocco is not in the Middle East. It's in North Africa. Get your geography right.

Stefan   October 23rd, 2012 7:33 pm ET

It's not about where the country is located, it's about how closely the cultures are interconnected and the similiarities they observe.

No matter where you go in the US, whether it's the Lower-48, Alaska or Hawaii you are in the US. Even though you maybe in the pacific or nearly in Russia.

You all seem at the ready to just rip someone apart without taking into consideration the intent behind their writing.

Eytan   October 24th, 2012 9:01 am ET

As an Israeli (which means I'm familier with a lot of ethnic food from the wide region), I can tell you this much about Moroccan food:
1. Morocco probably has the best cuisine in the world.
2. You can try following recepies and listening to guides, but Moroccan food comes from generations of home cooking traditions and all Techniques are based on feelings – it will never be even close.
3. A reletive of mine came from Morocco as a child. He is A top grade chef who won first place in numerous international contests – Everybody in the family, including himself, knows that he can never reach the cooking level of his mom. that Moroccan cuisine.

mary   October 30th, 2012 4:55 pm ET

They know Morocco is in North Africa, however they dont want to be associated with sad, but true!!!

Nasir   November 1st, 2012 7:53 am ET

Brothers and Sisters , Morocco is geographically in North of Africa, and culturally belonges to Middle East. Food is categorised under culture. That's it. Middle Easter foods are amazing ... I lllooooovvvveee it

willy   November 25th, 2012 11:39 am ET

Thank you Nasir, you are of course correct, middle east is a CULTURE not only defined by only geography. As anyone who has had the privilage to travel there. Count Egypt as the prime example.

subscribe RSS Icon
About this blog

Welcome to the Inside the Middle East blog where CNN's journalists post news, views and video from across the region. This is also a place where you can start the discussion so please keep your comments coming. We highlight not only current news stories but also anecdotes and issues that don't always make the top of the headlines.

Read more about CNN's special reports policy

Watch the show

Inside the Middle East airs the first week of every month on the following days and times:

Wednesday: 0930, 1630,
Saturday: 0430, 1830,
Sunday: 1130

(All times GMT)