On one of my many holidays in Fes, we did a series of cooking lessons with the chef of the Palais Amani. The Palais Amani is a charming and luxurious riad right in the old medina of Fes itself. I treat it like my second home when I am in Fes, and there are so many reasons to keep on visiting Fes. This exotic Fes, known for its green roofs, is one of the imperial capitals of Morocco. Its souk is the stuff shopping bargain legends are made of.
The Palais Amani is not over-the-top luxury. However this riad is ever so tastefully done up by the owner. It’s truly as an oasis of calm in a pretty chaotic old city. Everything about it is stylish, including the most simple things like breakfast on a terrace everyday.
WHAT’S COOKING FOR A MOROCCAN LUNCH
One of the cultural experiences offered at Palais Amani is a cooking class with their chef. As we love food, we signed up for this without hesitation and enjoyed it immensely. Our cooking class began at just after dawn. It included a walk around the market with the chef and a private cooking class on the rooftop of Palais Amani. Talk about a school with a view. Finally, we end up with a three-course lunch consisting of the food we cooked ourselves.
SHOPPING IN THE SOUK OF FES
We met the chef of the Palais Amani at 9 AM for a two-hour walk around the souk to buy ingredients for lunch. On our shopping list for our cooking lessons was a live chicken, a bag full of freshly ground Moroccan spices, and all kinds of vegetables. Oh yes, we also bought a handful of oranges. The live chicken was definitely a first for us.
The souk of Fes is literally just outside the Palais Amani. A UNESCO World Heritage site, it’s a labyrinth of narrow alleys — approximately 9000 alleys to be exact. Many tourists really get lost in this souk as it’s huge. In fact, my companion said to me: “We can’t really walk around on our own here. We’ll never be able to find our way back.“
HOW TO FIND YOUR WAY AROUND THE SOUK OF FES
The owner of the Palais Amani laughed when we told him our worries about getting lost in the souk of Fes. He said: “It’s easy to get lost in the souk, but it’s also easy to find your way again. Just ask…”
“It’s easy to get lost in the souk, but it’s also easy to find your way again. Just ask…”
Nevertheless, we always walked around with our guide. In the end, after four days in Fes, the only trail we really were able to navigate on our own was getting to and from our car. Our driver had to park outside the medina each day as there are no roads for cars inside — so we would meet him outside the medina.
TIME FOR WORK
After we’d bought the ingredients for lunch, we went back to the kitchens of Palais Amani to cook our meal. The chefs set up the lesson venue on the rooftop and everything was almost too pretty to work amidst, surrounded by tiles, potted plants and views. But cook, we did. The actual cooking process took another two hours.
COOKING LESSONS IN MOROCCO
We made a chicken tagine and an eggplant salad. For dessert, the chef showed us how to make a very simple dessert of sliced oranges with orange blossom water. This dessert was so simple that initially I wondered why it had even been included in our cooking lesson. However, it turned out to be extremely delicious.
Afterwards, we ate the food we had cooked ourselves in the restaurant. Indeed, we were very pleased with the results of a morning’s walk and cooking lessons in the kitchen. And whenever I want to remember those happy days in Morocco, I whip up up the delicious chicken tagine based on the recipe of the Palais Amani chefs.