Moroccan cooking

Capt. Benoit Guilloux
First published in
SFOR Informer#145, August 15, 2002

On the occasion of the third coronation anniversary of their monarch, the Moroccan contingent organised a traditional dinner party. Colonel El Houcine Benmimoun, commanding officer of the contingent, welcomed approximately 200 guests to the special occasion that offered the chance to taste the unique cooking style that Moroccan cuisine is famous for.

Mostar - In the presence of the Multinational Division Southwest commander, Brig. Gen. Phillipe Sommaire, and his entourage, the evening began with a few sporting door prizes, followed by a toast to His Majesty Mohammed VI. Guests followed suit by taking part in a delicious meal while being entertained by a traditional Bosnian music group.
A busy kitchen
For the many cooks and bakers of the contingent the day had been busy with the meticulous preparation of the food. Corporal Mohamed Alflis, chef, is responsible for overseeing kitchen operations.
"For a special day there is a special menu as we are celebrating the Throne national day. There shall be various hors d'oeuvre, a mechoui, grilled chicken and of course a couscous," said Alflis. "A good couscous needs long preparation, around two and a half hours. The compulsory ingredients are mutton or beef meat, vegetables, such as carrots, onions, chickpeas and dry raisins," he explained.
Preparing the couscous is Lance Cpl. Abderrazek Brahni. He eagerly joins the conversation regarding the tedious work involved with the culinary delight.
"It is a mixture of meat and vegetables boiled for two hours," he says of the couscous. "It includes saffron, hot peppers, ginger, olive oil and salt. The vegetables play a visual role too, we display them in a certain manner on the plate," said Brahni, who explained that the beverage of choice for the meal will be traditional Moroccan tea.
According to Capt. Mustapha Assila, Quartermaster of the contingent: "The critical thing is how you prepare the semolina with the hands and also to cook it twice." Brahni immediately adds: "One must add oil and butter to give a fresher aspect." Alflis and his team have been working hard as they all wish to give the best image of their country.
Homemade bread
People are less than idle at the bakery. Adjudant Hassan Lagnaoui, who is in charge of a team of four bakers, comments on the day's activities.
"We are looking at two additional big boxes of bread in comparison to our daily production of bread that is 900 pieces. We cook bread for the contingent but also for other units stationed on the camp. Tonight, guests will need bread as there is a sauce accompanying the couscous," he said.
Corporal Lahcen Oumadine who works alongside Lagnaoui has heard about fellow troops mentioning the importance of tea. "You must boil the water long enough. Not only do you need a good tea pot, but using charcoal is a must," explained Oumadine.
Navy PO Mohamed Bouatrours, who also works in the kitchen, says he is pleased to be taking part in such a special dinner. "It is a great honour as well as a great pleasure to prepare a traditional meal, whether it is for our honourable guests, or for the contingent. Despite the additional work it implies, I am happy, but also confident in the result," he said.
National virtues
A strong sense of honour and pride is evident throughout the day by everybody involved in the preparation of the feast. This is a day of numerous festivities throughout Morocco.
"We all listened to the speech of His Majesty on TV. It is a great day and we all follow our eternal motto: 'God, fatherland, king' from here in BiH," said Assila.

Related link:
Nations of SFOR: Morocco

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Photos: Capt. Benoit Guilloux

The Moroccan contingent recently celebrated the third anniversary day of the throne. On this occasion, a traditional meal was given to local civilian and military authorities in their compound.

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Preparation of the sauce under close surveillance.

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Chef Cpl. Mohamed Alflis checks on the cooking for the evening's traditional meal.

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Master Sgt. Hassan Lagnaoui (right) gives a hand to baker Lance Cpl. Lahcen Oumadine.