03 December 2012

Anyone for Méchoui?

Did any of you watch the TV programme about 2 years ago called Jamie Does Marrakech where the said chef, Jamie Oliver, wanders round Marrakech looking at the everyday life of people living here and the types of food they eat? Well, I did. Ever since then I've wanted to seek out some of the places he visited for myself. And today I have stumbled across one of these whilst shopping in the souks. This is the area fondly known as Méchoui Alley.

It's nearly 1pm and we are certainly ready for a bite to eat. It's hard work wandering amongst all these shops selling beautiful goods such as colourful swathes of fabric, babouches (slippers), djellabas, Berber teapots with glasses, wooden boxes so intricately carved, belly-dancing costumes - and even mops and buckets if you're desperate! Oh, and of course not to mention the latest must-have - Dr. Dre headphones - 'genuine fakes' we are informed with a smile from a friendly young shopkeeper. So it is we head off in the direction of the spicy smells wafting through the air.

We wander down a narrow alley, dodging the motorbikes and the men carrying sacks on their backs, until we see ahead of us a line of three or four stalls which seem to be serving the same thing - lamb in all its glory. As Jamie explained, as many as 30 lambs at any one time are cooked underground here just behind the stalls in a hole in the ground. They are roasted on a spit which the assistant then brings to the stall where the meat is taken off the bone and served along with some freshly-made flat bread to hungry locals - and now to the more adventurous tourist also. We see some people buying the cooked lamb by the kilo, no doubt to take home and share with their families. This is weighed out on old-fashioned brass scales using heavy metal weights, a real blast from the past.

A freshly cooked lamb just taken off the spit


Having requested some bread and meat, one of the assistants leads us to a nearby café and up a rickety staircase to the terrace where he gestures to us to sit down to eat our lunch. (NB In Marrakech you need to have long legs to climb some of these steps - they are so high it's ridiculous!) A tray soon arrives laden with the most succulent lamb I have ever tasted! People here don't believe in wasting food, so we have not only the meat on our plate but also the pure fat of the meat, bones and the skin. Served with a glass of Berber Whisky (Mint tea), we are in our element as we allow the lamb to slide between our fingers and strip the bones bare. There's no way one can eat this in a civilised manner!

Me digging in!

From our high vantage point we have a fabulous view over the Djemma El Fnaa and can also look down onto the many olive stalls below where people are gathering to buy a selection of the finest-looking olives and preserved lemons I've ever seen, no doubt to add to their tagines this evening. Alongside the olive stalls is another stall selling fresh mint, a delightful accompaniment.

Olive stalls

Anyone for mint?

How many olives can be eaten in one day?

Nuss kilo? (Half a kilo?)

From the rooftop terrace we can also see down into the square below as people mill around the shops and partake of a thirst-quenching orange juice, freshly squeezed by the amicable juice sellers - a bargain at 4dh a glass (approx 30p). Thirsty work all that shopping!

If you fancy a peek at Jamie Does Marrakech, I'd highly recommend it. This is a link to the programme: http://www.channel4.com/programmes/jamie-does/4od

In the meantime, I shall continue to dream of that succulent lamb.....mmmmmmm..........