One of the joys of travelling is discovering the local cuisine in situ. Imagine, then, the pleasure of returning home from your travels in Morocco able to reproduce that experience in your own kitchen. Sign up for a Fez cookery class with chef Lahcen Beqqi – who speaks French, English, Spanish, Tamazight and Arabic – and you should be able to do just that.
The customised courses are adapted according to time available, with seven-day culinary tours offering a chance to discover the region and its cuisine. If you don't have that much time to spare, though, the single-morning cookery class suffices to explore several different recipes and produce a complete three-course meal. You'll choose a starter, main dish and dessert from Lahcen's own recipe book and take part in all stages of the preparation process. The first requirement, of course, is to procure the necessary ingredients from the seasonal produce on sale in the market in Fez, so the first session of this original culinary experience will be a trip to the souk.
Here in the market in Fez you'll find no shrink-wrapped packages and prepared meals with sell-by dates stamped months ahead: everything is bought fresh, ready to be home-cooked. The market stalls display their wares – bright hillocks of spices, and fresh fruits and vegetables simply oozing with flavour – all beautifully laid out to tempt shoppers, while the fragrance of mint and cilantro mingles with the smell of fresh baked bread. Shopping in the souk is a treat for the senses, as well as a chance to experience local life as the cackling of live chickens competes with lively voices of buyers and sellers haggling – an activity that even Lahcen himself can't avoid as he moves from stall to stall showing you how to choose the best and freshest produce.
Once your basket is filled with everything that's needed, it's back to the Riad Tafilalet – a traditional Moroccan home restored and transformed into a boutique guest house – where it's time to begin to prepare the feast. With the help of the house cook, Lahcen will divide up the tasks between the participants, experts and novices alike, who have chosen to enliven their stay in Fez with this hands-on activity. One, with a knife soaked in orange-blossom water, carefully chops up the dates, while another will be chopping mint and nuts, and others peel vegetables, watch the pans where the ingredients are gently cooking, or carefully stuff the fragile pastry with fillings of meat or cheese to make delicious briouates. In a couple of hours everything is ready and all that's left is to sit back to enjoy the results at the table set up in the shady courtyard.
If you've never visited Fez, or if you fancy a novel twist to your next visit, this cooking experience is sure to be a highlight of the time you spend in the city. Not only will you discover a facet of Fez from within, but when you get back home you'll be able to amaze and impress your friends with a scrumptious Moorish dinner.
Cookery courses can be booked through Fes Cooking and can be fully customised, including catering for vegetarians. A one-morning course, from shopping in the souk to lunch costs between 40 and 50 € (around ￡35-£45) per person depending on number of participants. Week-long tours are available with meals prepared in the different locations on the itinerary. Options include routes through the desert and the villages of the Atlas mountains, where you will cook in the company of the Berber women of the Beqqi family.
Further information about Morocco:
Morocco Tourist Office