Castles Made of Sand: A Foodie Guide of Morocco

When I think about Morocco, I think about Jimi Hendrix visiting in 1969, lounging in a typical Moroccan café pondering over his lyrics, writing ‘Castles Made of Sand’, gazing over the souks and desert backdrops. But what often goes unsaid is the rich, exciting cuisine that Morocco is world famous for.

Tagines

Morocco – a beautiful country with extraordinary people and magnificent food is a rewarding experience for anyone to encounter, with a combination of great weather and diversity you can get a lot out of visiting this exotic place. I discovered my love for Moroccan food on my first visit, the balance of sweet spices, pastries and clay oven cooking encapsulated my senses and imagination. As a young traveller, the Moroccan cuisine excited me to learn more and to take my experiences back to England and to take you on a journey of the food of this wonderful country.

I feel it suitable to start my ramblings on the cuisine by first mentioning the tagine; the pinnacle of Moroccan cooking and most recognised dish of the country. The art of the tagine is in the way it is cooked: named after the earthenware pot it is cooked in, it slowly stews to create a variety of exquisite flavours. My first experience of the tagine was down a backstreet somewhere in Marrakesh, the heart of Moroccan cuisine, and it was the first of many. The slow –cooked dish is famous for its spice and tender meats and has made its way into kitchens all over the world. The tagine itself is an odd-looking device made from clay, keeping all the spices inside. You can order tagines at almost all Moroccan restaurants, but finding a good one is however, relatively difficult. Head towards the Djemaa El-Fna, the cultural hub of Marrakesh, with snake-charmers and herb merchants – it truly captures everything wonderful about Morocco. In the square you can find authentic Moroccan restaurants serving the best tagines in Marrakesh and other interesting vendors selling divine street-food.

As well as the tagine there are many other delicious foods from Morocco that are definitely worth a mention in this whirlwind tour of Moroccan cuisine. The tangia; the tagines single, bachelor friend, is a hugely popular dish that is cooked similarly to the tagine, but in a longer and narrower cooking dish. The tangia is famous for its simple cooking method, which makes it popular for the bachelor men of Morocco. The tender meat infused with the Moroccan spices is an award winning combination and should be tasted at all costs.

Moroccan desserts should never be dismissed either.  Sipping an espresso at a bumbling cafe whilst munching on a kfeta can’t be missed. The Moroccan pastries and cakes are heavenly; finger-food at its finest. They take full advantage of dates, yoghurts and almond to create bite-size treats, and they are perfect on-the-run food.

Moroccan Pastries

A fine example of the Moroccan pastry is the ktefa, a traditional Moroccan pastry, made from warqa pastry, layered with sweet fried almonds, crème anglaise and scented with orange. The Moroccan pastries symbolise how the country likes to eat – in cafe’s chatting informally whilst indulging their delights into the fine food.  Next time you think of Morocco, don’t just think about camels, souks and beaches. Think about the rich cuisine infused by French cooking, which has lead to a creation of interesting, gorgeous and complex foods. Any foodie or traveller visiting Morocco should throw themselves in at the deep end, try all sorts of street foods and be taken on a wonderful culinary journey.

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Backpacking in Britain: The Lake District

Backpacking isn’t just about heading for exotic locations that are far from home. Sure, you can go and lose yourself in a foreign metropolis or go trekking in a wild jungle, but you might be missing out on a great holiday that’s much closer to home.

The UK has so much to offer in terms of backpacking: cheap hostels, amazing locations, great food and a language that you can actually speak! This summer I decided to put my money where my mouth was by travelling north to the Lake District for a spot of backpacking, to get back in touch with nature and to maybe gain a little inspiration from the beautiful English scenery.

I started my journey in Buttermere, at a seriously chilled, back-to-basics campsite called Skyes Farm. For me, Buttermere offers just about the best views that the region has to offer, thanks to its stunning position right at the heart of the Lake District: it’s a must-visit if you’re in the area! Once you’ve set up base near The Lakes you’ll want to get exploring the local towns, so it’s good to know that travel is nice and simple around there. Sure, it’s a great place to get around by bike, but you can also take a more exciting mode of transport such as an open-topped double-decker bus, or even a ferry if you want to get across the water. So it should be easy for you to get from Buttermere to Keswick, a quaint market town near Derwent Water where you can walk, canoe and fish to your heart’s content. Keswick welcomes thousands of tourists every year, most of whom lodge in one of the charming local B&Bs or scenic campsites.

A trip to Ambleside is also recommended.This sleepy-looking town actually has a vibrant restaurant scene and plenty of decent shops to spend your afternoon mincing around. A favourite restaurant of mine is Zeffirellis, a popular bistro situated in an old restored cinema that serves vegetarian cuisine with a Mediterranean feel. If you fancy spending some of your tight backpacker budget on a fancy dinner then a trip to Zeffs should be on the cards: it’s all top-notch food. Near Ambleside sits the Lake District Visitor Centre, one of The Lakes’ most popular tourist destinations. Head here to burn off your excess energy through any number of different outdoor activities, from watersports on the lake to zip wiring through the air. If you need a place to stay, I recommend the Ambleside Youth Hostel, which has a great central location.

From Ambleside you can easily reach Grasmere, a tourist hub known for its amazing, dense gingerbread and its famous literary connection: the local Dove Cottage is Wordsworth’s birthplace. Or you could travel on to nearby Bowness, home to the Beatrix Potter museum. Or how about Windermere, where you canescape land entirely and take a cruise on one of the lake’s handsome-looking boats? Spending some time gazing out across the water and collecting your thoughts is a lovely way to while away an hour or two. Then from Windermere you can travel on to Kendal. Or, for that matter, wherever the wind takes you…

There are two tips I’d like to leave you with. Number one is that travelling between The Lakes’ youth hostels is by far the cheapest and simplest way of seeing the area; I would wholeheartedly recommend using them while on a backpacking trip. Number two is not to scoff at the idea of backpacking in Britain! Forget the Gringo Trail or South-East Asia: stay in the U.K and make the most of the enchanting countryside that we’re surrounded by! The Lake District has all the atmosphere, sights and amenities that a budget backpacker needs and is the perfect place to get away from it all. Go with an open mind and a willingness to explore and you’ll have as good a time as you could have anywhere else in the world.