Friday, June 22, 2012

Moroccan How To #6: Couscous

Alright, the blog post that so many of you have been waiting for.  How to make Moroccan couscous.  For many of you, the only couscous you know is the boxed kind that you add water to and let boil for 20 minutes and then eat.  Well that is not Moroccan couscous.  Moroccan couscous is a time consuming meal to make. You should allow 2 hours to prepare it correctly.  Moroccan couscous is by no means an exact science and you should play with the recipe to find what tastes best to you.  Saying that, here are the instructions to make traditional meat and vegetable couscous.

1: Buy plain couscous (approximately 1 pound for six people), meat of your preference (beef or chicken works best), and vegetables.  Suggestions for vegetables are carrots, turnips, zucchini, pumpkin, squash, tomatoes, onions, green peppers and potatoes.

2: First cook the meat.  This should be done in the bottom half of a steamer pot.  See picture below.

This is the pot you need

3: Add vegetables that take longer to soften as boiled; turnips, carrots, potatoes, green peppers, zucchini.  Pour enough water into pot so that all vegetables are submerged.

Veggies are ready to cook!

4: Pour couscous onto a large plate or into a pan with raised edges.  Using your hands, mix the couscous so that there are no clumps.

Couscous straight from the package

5: Pour about one cup of water into the couscous, little by little, so that couscous is moist.

My host mom used her hand to splash a little bit of the water on the couscous at a time

6: Next you will take the top part of the steamer pot and put the couscous into it.

7: Allow about 10-15 minutes to steam.

8: Dump the couscous back into large plate or pan and mix it again so that there are no clumps.

9: Add another cup of water to the couscous, little by little, so that couscous becomes moist again.

10: Sprinkle a 3 to 4 tablespoons salt over couscous and mix again.

Can you tell what's salt and what's couscous?

11: Pour 1/4 cup olive oil over couscous and mix well.

Just a little bit of olive oil

12: Ensure that the vegetables in the bottom of the steamer pot are still covered in water and if not add more.

13: Add remaining vegetables into bottom of steamer pot; squash, pumpkin, tomatoes etc.

14: Put couscous back into top part of steamer pot and allow another 20 to 25 minutes to steam.

15: After couscous has cooked again, dump back into large plate or pan and mix again so that there are no clumps.

16: Mix in another cup of water so that couscous is fluffy.

17: Transfer couscous onto large serving plate and spread out evenly.

18: Check on vegetables and see if they are done.  If not, continue boiling until they are soft.

19: Season vegetables and meat to taste with bullion cube, salt, pepper etc..

20: Ladle the vegetables and meat into the center of the plate.

The finished product..... YUM!

21: Pour the remaining juices into a bowl for people to use as they like.

22: Moroccans like to eat couscous with buttermilk.  If you're a fan of buttermilk, try it.

23: Eat with a spoon or try the Moroccan way, with your right hand.

24: Enjoy!  Bismillah!

And that's how its done ladies and gentlemen.  I hope you've enjoyed this Moroccan how to and look forward to the next one!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Tell Me a Story Dad!

When I was growing up, I loved it when my Dad used to tell me stories.  He wouldn't just read the books but he would have voices for all the characters.  I remember when he used to come to my school to read books to my class.  Always a crowd pleaser.  As Father's Day just passed, I feel as though it is my time to tell a story about my Dad.

One of my favorite stories about my Dad is from when I was about six years old.  My family and I were at a mall and we wandered into a book store.  I walked over to the children's section and picked out a Goosebumps book (very popular at the time).  Deciding that it would be easier to get my Dad to buy the book for me than my Mom, I found him and put on the cutest puppy dog face I could muster at six.  My Dad handled the situation very diplomatically and said, "if you can read the first page, I'll buy it for you".  Well I sat down right there on the floor and opened the book up and I read that first page and after the last word, looked up at my Dad and said "shall I continue??"  It was the first of many bets that my Dad lost to me.

Another one of my favorite Dad stories is again from when I was little.  I had always asked my parents for a little sister because Charlie, my older brother, was no fun to play with at all.  Since my parents had made a deal that my Mom would have the first two kids and any after that would have to come from my Dad, we stayed a two child family.  That being the case I would instead use my Dad as a doll.  He would be sitting on the couch watching t.v. or reading and I would come sit next to him with all my hair ties and give him the most beautiful hair styles you've ever seen on a grown man.  There are pictures of this but unfortunately I do not have any to post here.  Now many a grown man would say definitely not.  "You're not putting barrettes in my hair!"  Not my Dad.  He was a great client and came back to my little salon quite often while I was little.

I'm one of the lucky ones to say that I know my Dad and have many memories with him.  I'm lucky to know that he's proud of me and will support me through anything.  I'm lucky that using my puppy dog face still works on him and he takes me to the movies, out to eat and shopping when I'm home.  I'm lucky to have him in my life and I'm even luckier that he's my Dad :)

Yup, that's my Dad

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Three Day Weekend

A much needed three day break in Chefchaouen.  I read a book, sat outside at cafes, let my hair down and showed off some skin.  It was magical :)

A small mural 

Chefchaouen is known for the town being blue and white

Hello Kitty

A look at the side of the town

New favorite city in Morocco

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Fez Success!

This post is a bit overdue but I've been having some computer troubles so here it is.  Better late than never.

Back in May, the Acting Out Awareness group and myself traveled up to Fez for a forum on AIDS.  Not only was this exciting because we were invited by the Ministry but it was the first time these kids were going to be traveling so far from home (15 hours).  Everyone was excited, the plans were all made and it was time for the kids to really show off their show.

We met at 4 at the dar chabab and got all the costumes, props and set all packed up and ready to go.  When I arrived, my mudir informed me that the ministry bought seven tickets.  That's one for him and six for the kids.  My travel would be out of my own pocket but I was determined to see this through so the 40 bucks it would take me to travel there and back didn't mean much.  We arranged for a grand taxi to pick us up at the dar chabab and once we got everything in the back (not a small task mind you), we were on our way.

Once in Inzegane, we had time to spare until our bus at 6:45.  The kids went to buy snacks for the road and the rest of us just chatted.  Surprisingly, the bus left on time.  Only one kid got a little bus sick, hamdullah.  After a short stop in Marrakech we continued north through the Atlas mountains.  Around 6 am, when the sun was rising, I woke up with a few of the other students.  We were in Azrou.  Azrou is the part of Morocco that many people refer to as 'the Switzerland of Africa'.  It is indeed a beautiful city and the kids saw it right away.  The looks on their faces made me see that they realized the vast differences between the south and the north.  When we reached Ifrane, a small town known for its ski resort, one of my kids turned to me and said 'There's no trash.'  I forget what it's like sometimes to travel to a place so far from home and see all the differences that are as clear as crystal laid out in front of you.

The rest of the travel went by and we arrived in Fez a little past 8am.  After sitting at a cafe across the street from the bus station and eating some breakfast we headed over to the dar chabab where the forum would take place.  We weren't the first to arrive.  I was told we had to take the overnight bus because we had to be there by 9am.  Nothing started the first day until 8pm.  Luckily, with the free time I was able to catch up with Haddou, my LCF from PST.  The ministry was also not paying for me to stay at the center with the kids so I arranged to go to Sefrou and stay with another PCV there.  20 dirhams to get there and back was going to be cheaper than paying 60 for a hostel in the medina.

A pivotal scene from the play

I came back into Fez the next day in time for breakfast.  I was informed that I shouldn't eat any of the food because the ministry had paid for a specific number of people to eat and I was not in that number.  Mashi mushkil Ministry, no problem at all.  The forum finally started around 10am.  I was surprised to see that the second in command from the Ministry of Youth and Sports, Youness,  had come to Fez for the forum.  Youness does a lot with PC so I've met him before but was surprised when he recognized me.  He talked about the Ministry's new direction with the new minister and about new programs they would be starting with an AIDS focus.  He thanked all of us in attendance for our work on AIDS and wished us well as we continued.

Looks pretty dramatic with the lights

We breaked for kaskerut and Youness came up to me. He told me about his recent trip to America where he traveled around seeing different volunteer organizations in action. He told me how he hopes that one day Morocco will develop the same mentality. When we reached the table with the drinks and snacks on it, everyone was waiting for him to take something first before they began. Youness told me that I should be the one to start. If that's not recognition for the work I've been doing I'm not sure what is. Also, in your face people who told me I couldn't eat the food!

They got a standing ovation

After lunch the Acting Out Awareness group took the stage.  Another PCV joined me with a camera to film the performance.  It went very well.  The kids did great and the audience loved it.  A week later I got a message from PC telling me that they had heard great things about the performance from the ministry.  I couldn't be more proud.  

The whole group

The rest of the forum included discussions and networking opportunities.  The kids from my group were great ambassadors for the south of Morocco.  They handled themselves professionally and were attentive during every session.  I know we will be going to other forums in the future.  The Acting Out Awareness project has opened so many doors for these kids and I can't wait to see where they all will lead.  I know that they all have bright futures ahead of them.