Preserved Lemons & The Magic of Morocco

29 November 2016

This post will give you an introduction to our magical honeymoon to Morocco: a kingdom of opulence, beauty, and mystique.  I will also share a sous vide recipe for making homemade preserved lemons.  Read on to learn more.

When I first booked our honeymoon escape to Marrakech, Morocco, I started to announce our decision to friends, coworkers, and family.  Nestled among the ooh’s and aah’s of our decidedly exotic choice came questions. People questioned why we chose Morocco over, say, a European getaway or a relaxing week on a Hawaiian beach.  I answered these questions with a blasé tone, explaining that it was the food that drew me there or the favorable exchange rate.  Honestly these answers never quite explained why we had so solidly settled on the location.  I couldn’t articulate what allured me about Morocco, only that I had to go.  It was as if it had been calling me.

Shortly after arriving at our hotel, we set out for the square, Jaama el-Fna.  We ran into a guide who offered us a tour through the market for 100 Moroccan dirhams ($10 US dollars).  Four hours later, we said goodbye to our guide. We sat for a meal and tried to digest the experience.

Jaama el-Fna–the square and the souks

The square, as the sun begins to set

The square, as the sun begins to set with the Koutoubia Mosque in the distance.

In the old Medina of Marrakech, life moves to a different rhythm than that of the West.  The locals don’t walk, they glide and dance among the chaos of the old cobblestone streets together with mules, hurried taxis, clueless tourists, motor scooters darting in and out, and busy merchants hobbling to-and-fro.  This is navigated and taken in along with a cacophony noises: of the percussion of constant traffic, hustlers yelling at tourists, and the hum of various foreign languages.  With time, we started to mix into the chaos and pick up on the ancient rhythm through the jumble of the souks.

An overhead peek into the souks, shortly after opening in the morning

An overhead peek into the souks, shortly after opening in the morning

Jaama el-Fna (Arabic for “Place of Execution,” referring to a time when public executions were held in the courtyard) is a must for a visitor to Marrakech.  Practice your bargaining skills.  Find a rooftop cafe to observe and freely take photos (the locals don’t care to have their photos taken and many demand payment for it).  Most of all, relax and let yourself slip into an entirely different mode of life.

A rug shop. Our helpful guide takes a break to sit on the right.

A rug shop selling handmade Berber rugs. Our helpful guide takes a break to sit on the right.

The square and the souks of Jaama el-Fna are a perfect first day for a tourist in Marrakech.  It’s here that you will begin to appreciate the delicate balance of this ancient medina, between the old and the modern.  And it is here that you will first see the pride and hospitality of the Moroccan people.

Sous Vide Preserved Lemons

Preserved lemons are just as vital to Moroccan cuisine as Jaama el-Fna is to Marrakech.  The problem with this for many in the US is availability and convenience.  If you can’t find them in your market at home, you must resort to making them.  The issue with this is that traditional preservation methods take a curing time of a little more than a month.  Luckily, the sous vide can speed up this process to take just a little over an hour.  While your sous vide preserved lemons will not have the depth of those cured traditionally, they will do for most recipes.  We will use it in our upcoming recipes: a white fish tagine and a turkey couscous.

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Preserved Lemons, Sous Vide
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Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 60 minutes
Passive Time 2.5 hours
Servings
small preserved lemon pieces
Ingredients
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 60 minutes
Passive Time 2.5 hours
Servings
small preserved lemon pieces
Ingredients
Votes: 0
Rating: 0
You:
Rate this recipe!
Add to Shopping List
This recipe is in your Shopping List
Instructions
  1. Preheat sous vide to 83.9° C / 183° F.
  2. Place the lemon pieces, salt, and sugar in a zip lock or vacuum seal bag, massage the salt into the lemons, ensuring that all the lemons are covered.
  3. Seal and submerge the bag into the water bath, and cook for 60 minutes.
  4. Remove the bag from the water bath and empty the contents into a glass jar.
  5. Allow the lemons to sit for at least 60 minutes. If you can, refrigerate overnight before using for best results.
  6. The preserved lemons will keep for several months, deeping in flavor.
Simple ingredients and the world's cutest measuring cups, gifted for our wedding from dear friends.

Simple ingredients and the world’s cutest measuring cups, gifted for our wedding from dear friends.

In this post, we introduce you to our Marrakech adventure as we were introduced to this unique city: through Jaama el-Fna.  We also share a recipe for a Moroccan kitchen staple: preserved lemons.  For more travel pictures, from my husband’s perspective, please check out Thirteenth Knight Photography.

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4 Comments

  • Reply Home Cooked Menus 8 January 2017 at 6:41 pm

    I am super curious about preserved lemons – gonna have to put them in a recipe very soon. I love the use of citrus in Moroccan meals. Maybe I’ll break in my tagine too. Awesome post, thanks!

    • Reply Chava 9 January 2017 at 6:20 am

      They add a completely different citrus note, I find. If you try them out, let me know what you think. I think it took me a bit to get used to, honestly. They’re pretty intense!

  • Reply Ewa 30 January 2017 at 10:50 am

    Preserved lemons look great.

    • Reply Chava 30 January 2017 at 12:08 pm

      Thank you, Ewa. They’re really versatile!

    What do YOU think?