With all the Seville oranges in season in the shops I’m drawn back to the warmth and heat of the Moroccan dessert. Sounds strange but it’s these wonderful oranges that produce Orange Blossoms which in turn are used to make Orange Blossom Water (or Orange Flower Water) and it was this that I smelled every morning when I awoke in Ouarzazate.
Ouarzazate is on the edge of the desert road. We had planned to drive through the town to the Sahara which starts in Zagora but the temperature was in the late 40s already and all those in the know warned us off the trip. So we extended our stay in Ouarzazate at a beautiful old ‘maison d’hotes’ called Dar Daif. It’s tucked away on the outskirts of the main town but was worth seeking out for the view of the oasis alone.
The building has been lovingly restored by Jean Pierre and Zineb who welcomed us as old friends. There were nooks and crannies for my girls to explore and a library, made cosy with rugs, cushions and complimentary slippers for us to get lost in.
We could reach out at pick the figs from our window.
The many balconies were perfect for our stargazing expeditions.
But it was the smells from the kitchen that drew my attention. Every morning, the ladies would busy themselves with scenting the place with orange blossom water to welcome the day. Then I would smell pancakes. The Beghrir were our favourite. They were served with date syrup, date jam and desert honey.
We also enjoyed the denser Harcha, which was thicker no knead bread made with semolina flour.
A hearty desert dinner
We stayed in for dinner many times during our stay. It was a balcony banquet with never ending courses.
Despite the heat, we started with a Soupe de Legumes – vegetable soup that tasted of the sun.
This was accompanied by Briouats De Legumes – vegetable pastries that were rather samosas like but the filling was encased in a sweet flaky pastry that was rather oddly moreish.
And then our salad course. A simple but refreshing Tomato and Cucumber Salad with Onions, Sautéed Green Beans with Black Pepper, Roasted Squash with Honey and Aubergines with Olives all came i beautiful Tamegroute green glazed pottery.
We ordered a vegetarian Pastilla for our main course and it was by far the best we ate in Morocco. Shredded carrots, cabbage and courgettes encased in the thinnest, crispiest pastry that had only the slightest sweetness. I had been doubtful of the description but it was perfectly matched and set off with a few zesty limes on top.
I’m never one to turn away dessert and by the time our Date and Apple Tarte
Tatin and Tarte Au Citron arrived I was ready to indulge.
The pace was leisurely and our hosts discrete. Because of the
lateness of the hour we drank Verven – a verbena tea. It was simply verbena leaves in water which I sweetened with honey. It was meant to aid a restful sleep and this it did. I dreamed of stars and kasbahs, palm trees and orange blossoms. There may have been a knight in white robes on a white camel amidst all those because that’s the kind of romanticism this place that holiday dreams are made of.