A friend and I recently went to Morocco for a week of sunshine, souks and seasonal veg. We stayed in Marrakesh, in a hotel about ten minutes’ drive from the Jemaa el Fna market square. On our first night, we ate in a candlelit rooftop restaurant just off the square. The service was luxuriously slow, and we worked our way through a couple of beers as the sun set over the Marrakesh skyline. High up, we were far from the catcalls of orange juice sellers and the melodious pipes of the snake charmers, but still the mellifluous call to prayer enveloped the restaurant periodically, reminding us of exactly where we were in the world.
I ordered a vegetable tagine – a dish fellow vegetarians had warned I’d quickly tire of – whilst my companion had a vegetable couscous. Sweet potato, carrot and squash were the foundation for my buttery dish, but unfortunately, we discovered a small piece of meat in Nisha’s couscous towards the end of our meal, and it became apparent that the couscous had probably been prepared in meat stock.
We were pretty skint, so we ate in fewer restaurants after that and mostly survived on the local produce. Everything was so beautifully cheap, ripe and fresh: salty olive flesh that literally fell off the pits, tomatoes that were large and knobbled and cracked, sun-warmed dates like caramel, butter-soft avocados, peaches swollen with juice… we ate well. I insisted on checking out Marrakesh’s only fully fledged vegetarian restaurant, the Earth Café.
According to HappyCow.net, it’s fairly difficult to find. Since most of those reviews have been posted, the owners have dotted the long, pedestrianised street with helpful signs pointing hungry veggies in the right direction. Contrary to most maps, the café was down a poky alleyway on the left – not right – of the street. Inside, it was cool and bright and filled with tired-looking tourists holding Rough Guides and eating plates of fresh vegetables. An English menu was stuck to the wall next to its French equivalent. We were sun-sleepy and tired from a day on the beach in Essaouira and the restaurant didn’t sell any pick-me-ups in booze form, so we settled for mint teaand beetroot and orange juice.
Moroccan food lends itself really well to Autumnal cuisine. It’s basically comprised of root vegetables, dried fruit, nuts and grains, drizzled with oil and balsamic vinegar. All shit any self respecting cook should keep in their cupboards anyway. This dish was made up of two almond, apricot and potato patties stacked atop a tower of roasted root veg – sweet potato, carrot and some kind of gourd that resembled finely sliced apple – all drizzled with olive oil, a balsamic vinegar spiked with apricot, and dusted off with rosemary and thyme.
Earth Café | Happy Cow