While living in Morocco for six months, I learned to cook with my host mother. When I returned home I began to look for a cookbook with which to recreate my experiences. I hoped to find something that included both simple staples and more elaborate recipes that show off the potential complexity of Moroccan flavoring. I looked through a lot of cookbooks both here and in France (where there is a large Maghrebi community), and finally decided that this book was the best of the lot.
"Cafe Morocco" is suitable for both novices and those more familiar with Moroccan cooking. Many other cookbooks focus too much on lush photography of Moroccan souqs and too little on the recipes. This book centers on the food without sacrificing aesthetics, and presents an accurate, tasty interpretation of Moroccan cuisine. In addition to being filled with gorgeous, colorful photographs, the book is well laid-out, with clearly marked ingredient lists and simple instructions. At the front of the book are descriptions of ingredients essential to Moroccan cooking, and a brief discussion of cooking equipment and techniques.
Included are several basic bread recipes and a fairly large selection of tajines and couscouses, based mainly on lamb or fish. Helou also presents an unusually wide variety of vegetable-based side dishes that are so essential to Moroccan meals, but are often overlooked in restaurants and cookbooks. Consequently, this book is an excellent purchase for vegetarians (like myself) who love Moroccan food but can't eat meals centered on meat. Although the dessert section is a bit thin, it includes most basic dishes and a number of drinks. Most importantly, there are instructions on how to prepare fresh mint tea, the quintessential Moroccan gustatory and cultural experience.