"It's a beautiful person's natural habitat" - medlife
"A charming superior first class riad with the intimacy, service and comfort of a boutique hotel." - Kuoni
"A little jewel of a hotel in the heart of historic Marrakech" - Gulliver
"Visitors to Marrakech are spoilt for choice. Dar Les Cigognes is one of the best" - The Sunday Telegraph
"A very lovely and enchanting Riad." - Clare & Michael
"Relaxing holidays in style should all start from a place like this." - moroccochic
"A fabulously stylish hotel" - The Daily Telegraph
"An eye catching interior" - Fodor's
"Once being a princess" - Schweizer Illustrierte
"Multilingual staff are meticulous and attend quickly to guests every request." - maroccochic
"A warm welcome with great service" - Hotels of Charm-Morocco
"The attention to detail throughout is excellent." - Sociťtť perrier
"Magic lies above the courtyard with bubbling fountains and golden lanterns, tranquility and beauty embrace the guest." - Icon
"The luxury hotel Dar Les Cigognes" - Reise aktuell
"Dar Les Cigognes is a small luxury hotel in the heart of the famous medina" - Western Daily Press
"Dar Les Cigognes captures the genius of Moorish civilization" - Asiana Wedding
"A riad full of charm that totally breathes the atmosphere of Marrakech" - Jean-Philippe & Nicole
"Friendly staff and a warm welcome. Thank you for a wonderful time." - Mr & Mrs Knight
"We will come back with all our friends to show them this special place." - Diana
"Moorish through and through, Dar Les Cigognes is the perfect wind-down spot following a hard day's bargaining in the souk." - medlife
"Fairytale Wedding in boutique hotel Dar Les Cigognes" - honeymoontip
"We couldn't have chosen a better spot to spend the nights." - Annette & Marianne, NL
"Everyone and everything here were amazing." - Marcella & Stefano
"One of the most stylish and comfortable riads in Morocco" - Madame
"Small luxury hotel that bears the stamp of star architect Charles Boccara." - guide evasion
"a fabulous haven" - Area
"We would recommend this riad to anyone visiting Marrakech." - Society
"Perfectly placed in the medina- Dar Les Cigognes" - Kuoni
"We loved Dar Les Cigognes and Marrakech." - Annabel, UK
"If we are ever in Marrakech again we will certainly be staying here." - Equals & Sod ia, UK
"Excellent stay at this wonderful and quiet place." - Sophie
"Stay at Dar Les Cigognes for a boutique-style rest in the exhilarating city of Marrakech." - greenprophet.com
"A wonderful honeymoon, made perfect by a beautiful and shining place, and the most fantastic staff." - Mr. & Mrs Balcer
"What a charming hood in the best part of town" - Sam, UK
"The staff made our trip like a dream." - Annemarie
"Dar Les Cigognes is known for the best personal service." - Tourbillon
"One of the oldest and most elegant riad hotels in Marrakech" - reisemagazin.com
"The decor is amazing, truly magical, especially in the evening, by candlelight." - Clara, Prenatal & Rudy
"Hidden behind a heavy wooden door with a knocker, there is the hotel-jewel Dar Les Cigognes." - ICON
"Dar Les Cigognes is truly a - Dar es Salaam - haven of peace." - Mary & John, UK
"The style oasis of Dar Les Cigognes is located in the Medina" - Seitenblicke
"Dar Les Cigognes is one of the best hotel by far." - youandyourwe
"Sublimely chic" - Time Out
"An oasis of 1001 nights" - Domizil
"A roof terrace with magnificent views of the Atlas Mountains." - House & Garden
"Dar Les Cigognes- the perfect apres-shopping retreat." - Red
"The dark wood and creamy stone of Dar Les Cigognes illuminated with scores of candles are a picture of romance." - The Sunday Times
"One can only be blown away by the sumptuous tadelakt and ornate carved plaster" - Luxury Morocco
"Very kind and helpful staff." - Lesley & John
"An ideal starting point for discoveries through Marrakech." - reisemagazin.com
"Peace and quiet amongst the chaos of this great city" - The Best of Marrakech
"is characterized by luxurious but unostentatious accommodations" - New Hotels
"Stylish design of the Riad Dar Les Cigognes, a great luxury in a private intimate ambience." - Der Tagesspiegel
"A chic boutique hotel with a quaint Moorish charm" - B International
"A bon ton riad and veritable hotel du charme" - Maisons du Maroc
"The storks create the perfect harmony at rooftop level" - Chantal
"Dar Les Cigognes an oasis of luxury and calm." - Time out Marocco
"We loved our experience in Marrakech, especially our time at Dar Les Cigognes." - Lera & Ezak
"Dar Les Cigognes oozes history, but has been sensitively updated by cult architect Charles Boccara" - In Style
"Dar Les Cigognes is a stunning example of what the riads have to offer." - icsouthlondon.co.uk
"Dar Les Cigognes is very relaxing and calm after the hectic, vibrant city outside it's walls." - Karl
"Dar Les Cigognes stands out with its particularly well-conceived design." - Tablet talk
"Each guest's request is satisfied before you have expressed it." - Tourbillon
"Furnished with locally sourced carpets, tapestries, furniture and decorative items, it's an oasis of calm." - Harper's Bazaar
"The wonderful hotel and staff made our stay in Marrakech complete." - Milay
"An inspirational hotel" - The Sunday Telegraph
"One of the best riads in Marrakech designed by one of Morocco's best architects." - Chic Retreats
"This is probably the most calm and relaxing guest house in the city" - Amanda, UK
"An elegant and luxurious refuge" - Elle Decor
"Sophisticated elegance and style are the traits of this charming hotel." - Wand0travel.com
"Unusually stunning -. Business Traveler
"The whole team is always at your service, making a stay at Dar Les Cigognes forever memorable" - Traditions of Luxury
"romantic Moroccan nights at Dar Les Cigognes" - Daily Mirror
"This elegant boutique hotel is an oasis of tranquility amidst the hustle and bustle." - UrlaubTipp
"The hammam treatment made us feel like royalty!" - Lena & Ezak, Florida
"But the real luxury of Dar Les Cigognes is the hospitality and friendliness of staff." - Maroc, la Tradition du Luxe
"Close to the sky" - Schweizer Illustrierte
"A luxurious and relaxing refuge" - Elle Spain
"A lovely, laid-back place." - Richard
"... the entrance to paradise at Dar Les Cigognes." - Gaby
"Here in the stork house time remains to has stood still in the pre-industrial world." - Chili
"Master craftsmanship steered by the incomparable Charles Boccara. A true Oasis of Calm in Marrakech" - Architecture +
"Dar Les Cigognes is a small jewel." - Hťbergement
"One of the best boutique hotels of the Mediterranean" - Mediterranean Life
"A luxury riad done in a traditional but modern style" - The Rough Guide
"A perfect stay in a perfect riad." - John & Anna, UK
"Exceptional attention to detail and professional staff" - Sean
"The heart of the ancient medina is where to stay in Marrakech and Dar Les Cigognes is a gorgeous refuge" - Red
"Perfectly placed in the medina." - Kuoni
"Talk about an other world - to step the excitement city into the calm of the riad." - Lynn & Dave, UK
"Here you can pamper yourself in a relaxed atmosphere and in traditional Moroccan ambience." - BOARDING.DK
"The food was amazing and the hamman a real experience!" - Caroline & Jan, UK
"Thank you for the impeccable service." - Jennifer & Particio
"A design temple with sumptuously comfortable interiors" - Condé Nast Traveler
"We have visited many hotels but Dar Les Cigognes was a miracle." - Chris & Willy
"Moving from room to room is traveling, it's going from Black Africa to the desert of Mauritania. " - Couleurs Marrakech
"We will tell all our friends about the excellent service and quaint oasis that we felt inside there walls." - Ken, USA
"Anyone interested in Morocco will find it difficult to drag themselves away" - The Sunday Telegraph
"A perfect escape from the European winter." - John & Sue, UK
"Each room tells a different story full of oriental charm and romance." - Elle
"In Dar Les Cigognes in Marrakech time seems to have stopped." - Chili
"We felt safe, comfortable and very happy in your wonderful hotel." - Charles & Christine, UK
"It's hard to beat the exotic appeal of Dar Les Cigognes" - The Daily Mail
"Privacy is queen here apart from the stories of long journeys of the storks from the terraces" - AM Architecture du maroc
"Many thanks for making our first visit to marrakech a wonderful memoryÖ" - Mark & Kylie, Luxemburg & Australia
"It`s a peaceful respite from the hectic, chaotic life which is just a step away" - John & Co. UK
"The 17th century merchant's house still echoes with the gentle and beautiful atmosphere of the past." - Simpson Travel, Morocco
"A wellness temple" - In
"Everything breathes luxury and good taste" - Geo Guide
"Greets from the world of 1001 nights." - honeymoontip
"Dar Les Cigognes has been truly amazing!" - Mr. & Mrs. Rompson
"Oriental Pearl- Dar Les Cigognes" - freundin.de
"We have magical memories to take home." - Richmond & Sue, UK
"At night, the illuminated marble fountain brings life to the patio" - Couleurs 35 Marrakech
"Spend a magical weekend in Marrakech at Dar Les Cigognes" - Living etc
"Architecture that awakens the soul" - Architecture +
"We will definitely have to return again." - Amanda & Kristen
"Dar Les Cigognes gets our vote every time." - The Sunday Times
"Dar Les Cigognes is a gorgeous refuge." - Red
"Dar Les Cigognes is offering everything for the senses." - Schweizer Illustrierte
"Beneficial coolness and tranquility surround the guest upon entry into the world of Dar Les Cigognes" - Elle
"Will allow you to feel like a Pasha on your vacation." - Escapio
"The luxury hotel is the ideal starting point for exploring Marrakech." - escapio, Einzigartige Hotels
"We found the true wonder - Dar Les Cigognes" - Carrie & Johnson, USA
"Behind the blank walls lies a world of tranquility" - The Sunday Telegraph
"Exquisite mother-of-pearl inlay furnishings contrast crisp white sheets and lush green walls" - Home Journal
"Part careful restoration, part Saharan fantasy is wonderfully well-located" - Cadogan Guide
"11 rooms that take you on a ostentatious journey through Morocco." - Guide Evasion
"Georgeous refuge from the medina" - Red
"What an astonishing oasis of tranquility in the chaos of surrounding Marrakech!" - Nui Midonald
"Dar Les Cigognes kitchen is one of the best in the city" - The Times
"The plant filled rooftop of this designer riad is the perfect spot to catch a few, last fleeting rays of sunshine of the year." - Red
"Renovated by legendary French architect Charles Boccara." - BAZAAR
"We have traveled to many parts of the world and this is one of the friendliest hotels ever!" - Dave & Mary, UK
"The architect has put all his talent to preserve the authenticity of the place of Dar Les Cigognes." - the Best of Marrakech
"The Riad Dar Les Cigognes is a small city palace." - sierramar.ch
"It's beautiful!" - Philip & Hannah
"Excellent taste and florid imagination have brought this beautiful hotel to life" - Architecture du Maroc
"Ösuch attention to detail and so peaceful!" - Sally, Phillippe & Franc
"Service is just the start. Every detail counts" - The Independent
"A mustn't miss! " - Abenteuer und reisen
"An oasis of Moroccan chic" - You and Your Wedding
"We will return ""Inch Allah"" soon." - Francine, LA
"Marrakech- so full of life and colour. A perfect moment in time at Dar Les Cigognes." - John & Caroline, UK
"A true oasis of luxury and calm" - VIP International Traveler
"On the rooftop is a view across to the Atlas" - Daily Express
"Dar Les Cigognes has been designed so as to make guests feel at home" - Bales Worldwide
"Chic as chips" - medlife
"I will miss this place and I hope I will come back." - Jasmin
"The intricate attention to detail is stunning" - The Evening Standard
"A riad to be recommended." - Sue & Keitti
"A beautiful retreat in the heart of wonderful Marrakech." - Elli, Naomi & Nix, UK
"Dar Les Cigognes- unforgettable" - Luxueux Maroc
"A super riad in the heart of bustling city" - Simon & Heidi
"Our visit could not has been better." - Kiersten & Alexandria
"Oasis of calm-Dar Les Cigognes" - new metropolis
"What stands out most about Dar Les Cigognes is the way it feels like an exclusive pleasure." - maroccochic
"The most spectacular roof terraces of the city" - Elle
"with its design it reflects the traditional Morocco" - Urlaub Tipp
"This is a beautiful and wonderful place to stay." - Andi, UK
"In Dar Les Cigognes you relax royally." - SPA inside
"The Sanssouci Collection attracts discerning gourmets and globetrotters into the enchanting city." - BOARDING.DK
"Beautiful boutique hotel smack in the middle of the medina" - Daily Express
"Dar Les Cigognes is a small jewel highlighting the multiple facets of Moorish art" - Michelin Guide
"A wonderful idea- Dar Les Cigognes" - Only the best, Baden-Baden
"A true idyll amongst the chaos" - Richard & Louise
"Enjoy the fantastic food" - Privat Dining
"Unique mix of traditions and modernity" - Elle
"A fantastically beautiful hotel" - More Than Classic
"Dar Les Cigognes provides a very high level of comfort." - Chic Retreats
"A charming riad that is a convenient and quiet oasis from which to explore the city" - House and Garden.
"Dar Les Cigognes is a rare treasure!" - Christopher
"The exclusive clientele make this the perfect haven after a busy day in the souks." - B International
"This is the best place to be." - Jan & Jolanda, NL
"A delightful and well-run medina riad hotel" - Privat Dining
"After climbing up the tiled stairs, is there the paradise waiting." - Schweizer Illustrierte
"Paradise for aficionados" - Smokers Club
"Real Moroccan, classy and stylish, this is the way it goes at Dar Les Cigognes in the Medina of Marrakech." - escapio
"A great team of friendly staff make you feel welcome from the first moment you step into the hotel." - Irish Daily Mail
"Öthe city's hotshot riad converter." - The Sunday Times
"What a wonderful haven" - Lynn
"Dar Les Cigognes is a 17th-century merchant's townhouse that has been converted into a bijou 11-room hotel in Marrakesh-trés chic" - The Times of London
"Dar Les Cigognes is a masterpiece of luxury in the heart of the city." - Moroccochic
"Thank you for such a wonderful and relaxing time." - Richard & Sue, UK
"Dar Les Cigognes is a unique and extraordinary destination." - Simon, Australia
"The true beauty and many distinct facets of Moorish art come to life in this intimate boutique hotel" - Elle Decor
"The way how the stars like it" - In
"The dream of 1001 nights - Dar Les Cigognes"
"Dar Les Cigognes still oozes history, but has been sensitively updated by cult Morocco architect Charles Boccara." - In Style
"This is like a dream come true, it is the most wonderful place I have stayed in and I have traveled the world" - Yvonne and Chris
"Thank you for making our time in this city so memorable." - Rebecca & William
"Your riad fulfilled our wildest expectations regarding luxury and hospitality!" - Imgrid & Christer, Sweden
"The Riad is beautiful and the staff were friendly and helpful, they couldn't do enough!" - Joanne & Vicoria, UK
"This place is like a dream." - Marlene & Carl
"Morocco is a world of interiors. Marrakech has some of the most beautiful in the world, and Dar Les Cigognes is one of them" - The Mail on Sunday
The Riads of Marrakech is a Great New Book on Marrakech Riads and Features both Riad Kaiss and Dar Les Cigognes
Sunset view onto Royal Palace ramparts from the roof gardens of Dar Les Cigognes
For years, Moroccan style, and more specifically Marrakech style, has become one of the global hot design trends in interiors and in architecture. ¬†Truthfully, this is nothing new. ¬†Just look at the gorgeous buildings built during the golden age of the Moorish Empire, especially those built by the Marrakech dynasties, the Almohads and Almoravids, who were responsible for some of the most glorious examples of Moorish architecture, or any architecture, in the world: Sevilla’s Giralda, Marrakech’s Koutoubia, and Rabat’s Hassan II tower are perfect examples. ¬†So too, what followed, with the Alhambra being a most unforgettable example.
About 15 years ago, this quintessential Moroccan style began to retake its place in the collective imagination as an initially small group of people, mostly non-Moroccan, began to buy and renovate the glorious old houses, the riads, of Marrakech. ¬†The two riads that make up the Sanssouci Collection were amongst the first to open their doors, Riad Kaiss, restored by hotel and interior designer Christian Ferre, opened in 2000, and Dar Les Cigognes, restored by legendary architect Charles Boccara. opened in 2001. ¬†These two riads and a handful of other “first-movers” opened the floodgates to what has now become a city of over 1,000 riad guesthouses…and has made of the “RIAD” a name with global meaning as much as the “Ryokan” is to traditional Japanese architecture.
Elan Fleisher, photographer, has just published a book on this phenomenon, highlighting the riads that have defined and redefined Moorish style more than any others. ¬†The Riads of Marrakech¬†is lavishly photographed, and Elan’s eye for beauty is greatly in evidence. The book contains some of the most gorgeous photography of iconic Moroccan interiors ever shot. Featuring just 12 of Marrakech’s riads, it is very much about the most beautiful places in this extraordinary city. ¬†With a forward by the Minister of Tourism, this book lays down a marker for Moroccan style. It shows clearly why the riads, and these in particular, were not only the birthplace of Marrakech’s hip status, but also the origin of the city’s ongoing appeal as a source of design inspiration. We are doubly pleased that both Sanssouci Collection riads, two of the longest-running guesthouses in the ochre city, Dar Les Cigognes and Riad Kaiss, were selected to be amongst this august group. Take a look at the book, and go out and buy a copy.
Ouarqa, pronounced “warka” is an extemely thin pastry, much thinner than phyllo. It is also pliable, and strong, which lends it to the many delicious fillings that go into it.
This is our recipe for making ouarqa using a paintbrush and non-stick pan.
1 cup flour, sifted
1 teaspoon of salt
Vegetable oil to keep leaves from sticking
1 ¬Ĺ cups of very cold water to achieve a thin batter
Mix the batter well until there are no lumps, bubbles, and you have a uniform, thin batter which is a bit like buttermilk in consistency.
Heat your non-stick pan over a pot of the same size which is filled with gently boiling water.
When the pan is hot, taking your paint brush, paint very quickly around the outer rim then down into the pan, dipping again two or so times to quickly cover the entire pan. Patch or fill any holes delicately with brush or fingers.
Cook about 1 minute or less until you can peel away the edges. Gently peel from pan, lay on a sheet of plastic wrap and paint very lightly with oil. Continue with the next one, laying each on top of one another, keeping them covered as you go, and always oiling between the layers. Makes about 12 leaves.
Making merguez sausages in Marrakech with Sanssouci
Merguez are the delicious sausages of the Maghreb. ¬†In Morocco the flavours and tastes of these delicious little links are different from the intensely spicy Tunisian variety. ¬†Almost exclusively made with beef, but sometimes also with turkey, Moroccan merguez are a treat.
Delicious merguez sausages at the Sanssouci Cooking School in Marrakech
500 g twice ground beef, ideally jarret but also chuck or other fatty piece
1‚ĀĄ2 to 1 cup of water
1 tsp freshly ground white pepper 1‚ĀĄ2 tsp of salt
Pinch of saltpetre (optional)
500 g twice ground beef, ideally jarret but also chuck or other fatty piece
1‚ĀĄ2 to 1 cup of water
1 tsp freshly ground white pepper 1 tsp of salt
2 tsps hot paprika
500 g of minced turkey breast, twice ground
1 medium onion, chopped fine and ground with¬†the meat
1 tbsp of blended fresh parsley and coriander,¬†minced very fine
1‚ĀĄ2 tsp of cumin
1 tsp of powdered ginger
1‚ĀĄ2 tsp of sweet paprika
1‚ĀĄ2 tsp of hot paprika
1 tsp of salt
1‚ĀĄ2 tsp of ground white pepper
In all cases, grind the meat thoroughly, passing it through the grinder twice. Sprinkle over the herbs and spices and work in gently. Add water, a little at a time, as you are kneading, until you obtain a very smooth, pliable paste, similar to the consistency and softness of toothpaste. While you are doing this soak the intestines in a bowl of water to remove any salt they have been cured in and to ensure they are fully supple.
Load your sausage stuffing machine according to its instructions. A plastic bag wrapped over the tamper, will help tighten the seal in the chamber and prevent leaks. Gently untangle the intestine and blow into¬†one end to inflate it slightly and make it easier to slip on to the sausage nozzle. Slide a metre or so of intestine on to the nozzle for this quantity of sausage and tie off the cut end with a triple knot. Very gently turn the crank with your right hand whilst guiding and resisting the sausage and casing (you need to provide some friction for the casing to ensure it fills the sausage evenly). Proceed gently until the filling has fully dispensed or you have reached the end of your sausage casing. Tie off the end.
Gently work the length of the sausage to ensure the filling is evenly distributed. Determine the desired length of each link, then twist a few times to create a kink in the sausage. Bend back the long strand to the same kink and then fold the length over and through, tying them together, then repeat in the other direction. When you are repeating, by threading one length over the other you will create kinks in both, thus creating a collection of four woven lengths. Repeat by starting a new section, in this way creating groups of four until you have used up the entire strand.
To cook either grill on the fire or fry in a pan with a small quantity of oil, turning in either case to ensure even cooking. Cooking for 10 to 15 minutes, until cooked through. 500 g of meat as above will make about 2 dozen sausages depending on the length of each.
Moroccan Saffron is Exquisite
Beautiful field of saffron crocus just before the harvest
Saffron is an extremely important and prized spice within Moroccan culture. It‚Äôs used primarily as a spice with a complex and slightly sweet flavor, and imparts the food it spices with a brilliant yellow color. It‚Äôs also used in dyes, tea, perfumes, and medicines. Studies suggest that it could help to suppress cancer, have antioxidant-like properties, and may even help with depression.
The red threads you see when you buy saffron are in fact the stigmas of a purple flower, the saffron crocus. The flowers must be gathered by hand and the stigmas must be separated from the flower by hand. One kilogram of saffron requires the harvest of 110,000‚Äď170,000 flowers; forty hours of labor are required to pick 150,000 flowers. Knowing this, it is easy to see why saffron is by far the most expensive spice in the world.
A handful of Moroccan saffron crocus flowers
In Morocco, most saffron is grown in Taliouine village, in the Souktana cooperative. The flowers bloom in October and early November, and the crop is cultivated in traditional ways, with natural fertilizers and manual plowing. It‚Äôs best to buy saffron in the whole stigma, rather than the powder, because saffron is often fraudulent. The strands should be long and thin with a dark red color. The smell should be strong, and the strands should stain your finger when you pinch them.
Some key facts: Morocco is the world’s 4th largest producer of Saffron, after Iran, India, and Greece. ¬†Morocco produces just 3,000 kg of saffron per year. ¬†That small amount, however, is enough to employ 1,285 farmers and support the village of Taliouine and its 12,000 inhabitants. Today, Moroccans Saffron has achieved status as a Product Designation of Origin for its unique qualities, which helps farmers achieve a fair price for it.
Harvesting the saffron threads by hand in Morocco
Once you have the prized spice in hand, join our cooking classes to learn all the delicious ways you can use it!
Argan Oil is Moroccan Gold
Organic argan oil is the base of our spa products at Sanssouci Collection
Argan oil is an essential factor in the Moroccan health and beauty regime, and in the Western world it has gained lots of celebrity endorsements under the name ‚ÄúMoroccan oil.‚ÄĚ But where does it come from? How is it made? What makes it so great? We‚Äôll look deeper at this wondrous ‚Äúliquid gold‚ÄĚ to figure out the story behind the hype.
Where does it come from?
Argan oil is made from the nut of the argan tree, which grows exclusively in Morocco, primarily in the southwestern part of the country between Essaoira and Taroudant. The tree once grew all over North Africa, but it‚Äôs now endangered and protected by UNESCO, making argan oil one of the rarest oils in the world. The region in which the tree grows is a vast biosphere reserve. The Berber communities that harvest the oil are committed to preserving and sustaining the argan forest, initiating an ecosystem reforestation project and working with the Moroccan Water and Forests Authorities to ensure the trees continue to thrive.
Traditional craft making for this important oil and way of life
How is it made?
Traditionally, undigested argan pits were collected from the waste of goats that would climb the trees to eat their fruit. Today, the process is a bit less messy: the pits are extracted from the fleshy fruit my machines instead. But to make the oil, the pit must be cracked open to reveal the kernels inside. This hasn‚Äôt been successfully mechanized, so Berber woman crack them open by hand, one at a time. The kernals are then roasted, ground, and pressed to finally reveal the smooth, golden oil. Most argan oil is produced by women‚Äôs cooperatives under fair-trade agreements that ensure they are paid fair wages and have good working conditions. This is a significant advantage as it allows them to support themselves and their families and provides a certain amount of independence in a traditionally male-dominated society.
What makes it so great?
Argan oil has three uses: for skin, for hair, and to eat. As a food, in Morocco it is traditionally used as a dip for bread or a drizzle on couscous or in salads. It has a slightly nutty flavor and it‚Äôs very healthy: it helps prevent heart disease, obesity, and possibly even cancer. As a cosmetic, it‚Äôs extremely rich in vitamin E, essential fatty acids, and many other nutrients. It‚Äôs great for soothing dry or irritated skin, and it helps regulate sebum to even out oily skin. It brightens skin and helps to get rid of scars. It does the same for hair, providing deep moisture, smoothing frizz, and giving volume to thin hair.
Argan oil is a treasure of Morocco, rare and highly prized. But with all its benefits, it easily lives up to the nickname ‚ÄúMoroccan gold.‚ÄĚ Come to Morocco yourself to experience an argan oil massage in our beautiful hammam, and then take a trip to the souk to buy a bottle of the lovely golden oil, made only in Morocco.
Stunningly Beautiful Wedding Cakes
Have you ever seen a more gorgeous wedding cake?
I am always amazed when someone you know for a while reveals a hidden talent. ¬†All the more so when it is someone you see week after week and the talent proves to be completely awe-inspiring. ¬†Thus it was when I saw that friend and fellow Marrakech resident and riad owner Emma Joystonbechal is a serious baker. ¬†And by serious, I mean really serious. ¬†The cakes that are pictures are some of her many confections, wrought with such fantasy and professionalism it is hard to imagine that they could even be made.
She makes these incredible wedding and special occasion cakes on a fully bespoke basis, and requires a month of advance notice to ensure she has access to all of the ingredients, many of which are brought in from London. ¬†The cakes are true works of art as you can see.
Incredibly creative cake design
I asked her for some of her baking tips and she provided these helpful thoughts: she uses a slightly wetter batter than is called for so that the cakes have more lift to them, and to get a lighter consistency without upping the water content, she uses a few spoonfuls of hot water. ¬†When making individual cupcakes or fairy cakes, she suggests using an ice cream scoop, which she says is the ideal quantity for the papers. ¬†For cakes that you plan to ice, she suggests wrapping strips of soaked towels or clothes around the outside of the cake tin, which will ensure a moister cake, but more importantly ensure even baking–the cake will not peak in the middle, and all parts will rise together and not crack. ¬†Lastly, as an aside she says that you must whisk your meringue over a bain-marie for best results.
These cakes are true works of art
You can contact Emma about her incredible confections by writing to her at Riad ZamZam,email@example.com
Yotam Ottolenghi’s Mediterranean Feasts Films with Sanssouci Collection
Ottolenghi filmed his latest show with Dar Les Cigognes and Riad Kaiss
We were very delighted to be involved in the wonderful new series from London-based chef Yotam Ottolenghi, one of the most interesting and innovative chefs working with Mediterranean food today. ¬†Ottolenghi presides over a growing collection of London eateries, all known for their fresh and clean style.
Ottolenghi has already authored a number of cookbooks. ¬†Jerusalem, the latest, has met with great critical acclaim. ¬†Previous books, Plenty and Ottolenghi, the Cookbook are both characterised by their emphasis on quality ingredients and preparation without fuss, that plays to the best strengths of fresh, seasonal food.
It was a great honour to have Yotam shoot segments of his show at both Dar Les Cigognes and at Riad Kaiss, but to also use our team as sources of inspiration. ¬†He has featured two of the recipes he prepared on his show on his own website:
It was a wonderful show, airing on Channel More 4 last night at 9 pm, but now available on the channel 4 website as catch-up TV for UK residents. ¬†The show used Marrakech as a base and explored the delicious and varied food on offer in town, up in the mountains, and all the way out to the coast in Essaouira. ¬†What was refreshing about the show was that it took an off-the-beaten track approach to the food–so the recipes and stories were new and refreshing, and his recipes are too.
Dar Les Cigognes has been at the forefront of presenting authentic Moroccan cuisine, fresh, seasonal, as it is, since we opened our doors in 2001. ¬†Voted most “gourmet” riad by the Telegraph and awarded “Best Moroccan Cooking School” last year, Dar Les Cigognes has always been all about Moroccan food. ¬†Since joining the Sanssouci Collection, Riad Kaiss has continued in the same vein. ¬†We were delighted to have been able to contribute to and participate in Yotam’s creative approach to Moroccan cuisine. ¬†In his own words it was said best, “Moroccan cuisine is about bringing people together.” ¬†We can think of no better endorsement for the culture and country. ¬†Thank you Yotam for spreading the word about this amazing place.
Balboula (Barley) Couscous of 7 Vegetables
Balboula (Couscous) of Seven Vegetables
Balboula is the original Berber version of couscous.¬† Made from cracked barley, it is a delicious dish which is as good as it is hard to find on a restaurant menu.¬† In a world where we are concerned with eating so many carbohydrates, and regular couscous is just like pasta in this regard, balboula offers a healthy alternative‚Ä¶it also happens to have more flavour‚ÄĒa slightly nutty flavour which lends itself to great variation as described below.
Balboula differs from regular couscous in that it is steamed three times instead of two.
For the couscous
500 g balboula, cracked barley for couscous1 teaspoon of salt
2-3 tbps of butter for after the second steaming2 tablespoons of olive oil1 cup of cold water, about, to start, plus more for each steaming
Vegetables and broth
2 medium yellow onions2 teaspoons of turmeric
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons of olive oil
1 heaping tablespoon of concentrated tomato paste4 carrots1 half head of cabbage
200 g courgettes, about 6 small ones
250 g of pumpkin, a piece about the size of a hand
2 small aubergines
1 cup of dried fava beans
1. Start by preparing your ingredients for cooking.¬† Soak the dried fava (broad) beans in water for several hours to rehydrate.¬† Peel the onions, cut them in half from top to bottom (root end), then laying the flat on a board, cut them into thin ‚Äúmoon-shaped‚ÄĚ slices.¬† Chop the tomatoes into quarters from top to bottom.¬† Peel the carrots by scraping them with the flat of a knife.¬† Peel and trim the ends off of the turnips.
2. Prepare the couscous for its first steaming.¬† Spread the balboula out in a large, shallow dish, add the salt, the olive oil, stirring each time to blend, then pour in the water.¬† The amount of water should be felt‚ÄĒit should be only as much as the balboula can absorb without leaving any excess water.¬† Blend well with your hands to separate the grains, and set aside to swell.
Balboula Couscous of 7 Vegetables at Dar Les Cigognes
3. Prepare the vegetables for the final dish.¬† Fill a large bowl with water and set aside.¬† Place each vegetable once prepared in this water.¬† Scrape the carrots to peel them, then half lengthwise.¬† Cut or pop out the hard inner core of the carrot.¬† Split the courgettes lengthwise.¬† Cut a small piece out of the skin side for decoration, at even intervals along the back of the courgette.¬† Peel, top and tail the turnips and then quarter lengthwise.¬† Cut the ¬Ĺ cabbage into 4 wedges.¬† Slice the pumpkin into large chunks, about the size of walnuts, leaving the skin on.¬† Scrape the stem end of the aubergines to remove any spines and fuzze and trim the stems of any brown spots.¬† Cut up through the length of the aubergines in quarters, taking a piece of the stem with each cut.
5. Prepare the couscous.¬† Start by wrapping the bottom of the couscoussier with folds of tin foil around the edges to help create a tighter seal between top and bottom (this prevents the steam from escaping).¬† Pour the resting balboula into the top half of the couscoussier and gently fit it into the bottom with the steaming broth.¬† Steam, uncovered, for 20 minutes.
Pour out the balboula into the large flat dish, add a cup of cold water, poured over your hands, as you fork your fingers through the balboula to break it up and prevent it from clumping.
Add the remaining vegetables that have been soaking in the water, as well as the fava beans to the broth, and add water to the broth to just cover the new additions.
Return the balboula to the top of the couscoussier for its second steaming and fix the top on the bottom above the broth.¬† Steam thus for 20 minutes.¬† Again pour out the balboula into the large flat dish.¬† Add the pat of butter and stir to melt.¬† Again add cold water and mix with your fingers to prevent clumping.
Add the heaping tablespoon of concentrated tomato paste to the broth and stir in gently to mix.¬† Add water to keep the level in the liquid now to half the height of the vegetables.
Return the balboula to the top of the couscoussier for its third and final steaming.¬† After 20 minutes it is ready.
6. Serve.¬† Pour out the balboula into the dish you would like to serve it in, mounding it up like a mountain then hollowing out the centre like a volcano.¬† Place the vegetables in an ordered way inside and around the mound, taking care to lay them out in an attractive way.¬† Pour over a good amount of the sauce.¬† Reserve the remaining sauce and serve in a bowl for those who wish to eat more.¬† Serve it forth.¬† Serves 8 as a main course.
The British Prime Minister Winston Churchill loved Morocco and called Marrakech ‚Äúthe Paris of the Sahara.‚ÄĚ¬† In 1936 he wrote an article for the Daily Mail headlined ‚ÄúI was astonished by Morocco,‚ÄĚ in which he rhapsodized, “I am captivated by Marrakech. ¬†Here in these spacious palm groves the traveller can contemplate the stately snow-clad panorama of the Atlas Mountains.
Marrakech medina and Koutoubia by Winston Churchill
The sun is brilliant but not scorching; the air crisp, bracing but without being chilly; the days bright, the nights cool and fresh.” During his visits he often stayed in the luxurious La Mamounia, and was inspired to paint quite a few scenes from the city.
During World War II, after the Casablanca conference, Churchill talked President Roosevelt into visiting Marrakech with him, saying, “You cannot come all this way to North Africa without seeing Marrakech. Let us spend two days there. I must be with you when you see the sun set on the Atlas Mountains.” ¬†While here, the two great men stayed in the Villa Taylor; the legend goes that the owner, Mrs. Taylor, was such a stalwart Republican that she sold the villa after the war because she couldn‚Äôt bear the thought that a Democratic president had slept in her bed.
Churchill insisted they admire the view from the tower of the villa, so two of Roosevelt‚Äôs staffers carried the crippled president up the winding stairs to join the prime minister.
Marrakech medina with the Atlas Mountains in the background
Lounging on the roof Roosevelt said he felt like a sultan. Churchill‚Äôs doctor, who was there with them, wrote of the evening in his diary: “As we stood gazing at the purple hills, where the light was changing every minute, the PM murmured, ‘it’s the most lovely spot in the world’.”
This trip was the one and only time during World War II that Churchill ‚Äď an avid painter ‚Äď took up his brushes: to paint the view from the villa that he had shared with Roosevelt that night.
Churchills love affair with Marrakech seen through his paintings
Churchill‚Äôs granddaughter, Celia Sandys, writes about her travels in her grandfather‚Äôs footsteps in her book Chasing Churchill, from which most of the information in this post was gleaned.
Sublime encounter with Jewish Morocco and a tale of challah and Sanssouci Collection
Walking through the medina the other day with a friend, we decided to poke our heads into one of the communal bread ovens. ¬†Across Marrakech and the medinas of Morocco, you will find these communal ovens, dating from a time when nobody had ovens at home. ¬†Many people with ovens do still use them, particularly for bread, because it is hard to replicate the right conditions that they have in making bread.
The bread ovens of Morocco, however, are slowly dying out as lifestyles change and people just cook at home. ¬†In the mellah, where we were, the bread ovens are mostly still all active, in part because it is one of the poorer areas of the medina, so many families rely on them. ¬†Many of the old bread ovens have now started to employ bakers of their own and are doing a brisk trade selling bread. ¬†You see them selling their bread out of enormous baskets on the back of mopeds.
The mellah is the old Jewish quarter. ¬†The word mellah is derived from the arabic for salt, as it was the Jews who were granted a monopoly on salt in exchange for taking care of the grim business of salting the severed heads of the enemies of the king. ¬†These heads were then put on spikes and put on display at the Djema el Fna or Square of the Dead.
When we poked our heads into one of our local bread ovens, the most beautiful loaf of freshly baked challah was there waiting to be re-united with its maker. ¬†I was very curious about that bread, not only because challah is so delicious and because nobody makes it commercially in Marrakech, but also because there are so few Jewish families left in the mellah that it was to me an object of poignant beauty.
A few weeks later I went back with someone who could speak with the baker and found out the name of the baker and her address. ¬†A few minutes later we were knocking on her door. ¬†I told her I had seen her bread and that I wanted to learn how to make it.
Delicious traditional Jewish challah bread
“Only on Fridays,” she said, meaning the next day. ¬†I asked if I could come. ¬†She told me to come at “12:30 for the braiding,” or 11:30 if I wanted to learn how to make the dough. ¬†I was there for 11:30. ¬†I was welcomed into their house and enjoyed being there just watching their daily lives unfold…there was a Moroccan attendant who was decorating the feet of the daughter, granddaughter, and aunt of my new baker-friend with henna. ¬†I was offered a plate of delicious pastries. ¬†We make our own pastries at the hotel, and though many that I was served had the same names, these were completely different–lighter, more perfumed (I will learn these another time).
The lady of the house measured out all of the ingredients and passed them to a young Moroccan woman who mixed and kneaded the dough. ¬†It was only when the dough had risen and was ready for shaping and finishing did the baker step in and work her magic. ¬†She was incredibly dexterous and proceeded to make at least 10 different varieties of braided rolls, flowers, and several versions of the braided challah. ¬†When she had finished and the rolls and breads had been set aside to rise for a bit, an elderly man came from the bakery to collect their breads for cooking. ¬†They headed off brushed with an egg wash and sprinkled with sesame seeds.
I asked her what she called this bread that she made only on Fridays, expecting her to say challah or some other magic word.
Her reply, “Pain de maison,” or just homemade bread. ¬†The recipe for it will follow. ¬†Until then you will just have to come to one of our riads where we are busy learning how to make it.
Subsequent to posting this message I have had some requests to include her recipe which I do here as I observed it. ¬†Caveat is as follows: I haven’t tried to repeat it yet, which I plan to do and take it back to her and see how she feels about me as a student! ¬†If you try it please give me your feedback on the recipe so I can adjust it accordingly.
For the dough
2 kg of pastry flour
140 g of sugar
15 cl of corn oil
1 sachet of chemical leavener
40 g of salt
42 g of fresh yeast
Enough warm water to achieve the right consistency
For the egg wash (proportions)
1 egg yolk
Make the dough.¬† In a large bowl mix together the flour, salt, and baking powder.¬† Mound it, hollow the middle to make a volcano and add the yeast.¬† Add a small amount of warm water and use it to break up the yeast and to create a paste, adding water and bringing in a little flour to ensure all of the yeast is completely dissolved.
Place the oil and the eggs together in a bowl with the sugar, add a little warm water and mix together lightly before pouring this into the flour and yeast mix.¬† Work this together as best you can, adding water as you go to get a firm dough.
Knead.¬† Work the dough hard on clean surface for 15-20 minutes.¬† Work the dough by gathering all into a ball then pushing with the heel of your hands out twice the diameter of the ball until the dough is stretched thin and begins to rip.¬† Fold it back onto itself, reshape the ball, turn a half turn, and repeat.¬† Do this over and over again until you have a firm, highly elastic, slightly tacky dough.¬† Dust with flour as needed.¬† The dough should come up easily from the kneading surface and should not stick to your hands.
Place the ball of dough into a well-oiled bowl and turn well to coat.¬† Cover with a cloth and let rise until increased in volume by half.¬† In Morocco, in the heat, this takes about 15-20 minutes.¬† Elsewhere, this could take 30 minutes to an hour.¬† What matters is for the dough to increase in size by 50%.
Shaping, Braiding, and Proofing.¬† Once the dough has risen, empty it out onto your work surface.¬† There are many different shapes that can be created.¬† Here are just some of them.¬† You can do many at once.¬† After shaping them, lay them on a baking tray to proof lined with baking parchment.
Logs: this is the most simple form.¬† Take a piece of dough a bit larger than a golf ball and roll it into a small log, about 10 cm long.
Small rolls: using dough as for logs, roll out into long strands about 1 cm in diameter.¬† Rolling around the end of a finger from the middle to create a loop, wind the two strands around the circle to create a tight decorative twist.¬† The number of twists and the manner of where to tuck the ends will create different shapes.
Double braid.¬† Take a piece of dough a bit smaller than a tennis ball and roll out into a long log.¬† Roll a second piece of the same width and length.¬† The logs should be about 1cm in diameter and about 30 cm long.¬† Lay them just next to each other, extending away from you.¬† Take the ends next to you and braid them over one another until you get to the end.¬† Tuck the ends together and squeeze to close.¬† Turn the dough and repeat with the unfinished length.¬† Create a loop from the middle, and braid the two strands together, pinching together the ends to close.
Double braid flower.¬† Proceed as for the double braid as far as creating the interwoven double strand.¬† Starting at one end, roll into a tight circle, then continue to roll togther with a little pressure to push up the middle.¬† Pinch to close at the end.
Triple Braid.¬† Create three strands of about 20 cm in length and 1¬Ĺ cm thickness (this should be an equivalent amount of dough as for each strand of the double braid).¬† Place the three strands together and as with the two strand loaf, braid together, with alternating strands to the end, pinch together, rotate, complete, pinch and tuck the ends.
Other forms: you can also make a round loaf, just setting a ball of dough in the desired shape on the baking sheet to proof.¬† You can also using loaf pans.
Whichever forms you create, set them aside, covered, and let rise for 20-30 minutes.
Brushing with egg wash.¬† Beat together the egg and egg yolk until thoroughly blended.¬† Brush the part risen rolls with egg wash, gently, but taking care to cover the upper surface.¬† Sprinkle as desired with seeds or not.¬† Leave to finish proofing, until doubled in size.¬† Perhaps another 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the ambient temperature.
Bake.¬† While you are waiting for the final proof to finish, preheat your oven to 175¬įC/350¬įF/Gas Mark XXX.
Bake your bread in batches of similar sizes and shapes and cook until golden, about 25-30 minutes for rolls and 35-40 minutes for the long braids.
Set aside to cool completely on a rack.¬† The cooled down loaves freeze well.