Morocco Impressions and a Mini Travel Guide

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Some of you might now that travelling is one of my favourite things to do, and as my parents seem to tick as I do, some months ago my dad announced he wanted to take my mum and I on a great holiday. I did not complain. Instead, I suggested taking one of my best friends with us, which obviously added to the fun of the trip.

We travelled through Morocco. Our first stop was Marrakech, which is a beautiful city with beautiful people, breathtaking nature and gardens, impressive palaces and – food.

There is no adjective before the word food, because contrary to my expectation there weren’t innumerable vegetarian dishes to choose from on the menus, but basically two dishes, which, if you were lucky enough, were cooked with meat.

Tagine and Couscous.

I love Couscous and I love vegetables, but trust me, if you eat couscous eight days in a row, you kind of wish that wheat was never discovered.

Also, I probably drank more orange juice in one day than the amount of water I drink in one week.

Orange Tree

8 days aren’t long, but here are some of my highlights/tips. 

- Walk through the souk (market) of Marrakech, buy way too many plates and bowls because they are simply beautiful (I wouldn’t call bargaining a highlight though). Buy Ras el Hanout and Mint Tea.

Fresh Mint on the MarketSouk of Marrakesh Marrakech Details Window Photograph Herbs and Spices Beautiful Kitchenware

- Eat Msemmen (which I believed to be vegan until I looked up how to spell it) stuffed with a red paste containing olives and peppers. They sell it on the streets for 5 to 8 dh. Also, get some olives from the market.

- Buy a beggar some food. We bought an old man who was begging on the street a falafel sandwich with fries, watched him unpack the bag, taking out the fries, offering us some before even eating one and happily and humbly eating it while looking at us with the most thankful smile I’ve ever seen in my life.

- Eat couscous with vegetables at Naima. The place doesn’t look what you would call inviting, but seriously, go inside and be served the best couscous you’ve ever had. The menu costs 100 dh and you will be served fresh bread, olives, a small starter, the best couscous, some fruit and two moroccan bisquits. Totally worth it. It’s a family-run business and the owners totally make you feel at home. If you are not comfortable with your food being touched a lot with hands before being served, don’t go.

- Take a taxi and drive through the berber villages (we were lucky enough to visit a berber family at their home – the daughter who was in her twenties was at home alone – and we were served tea and found out the daughter who seemed rather shy at the beginning had a bachelor in something to do with human rights, had friends in different countries which she found through facebook and owned an iPhone (!). This might not sound very impressive, but given their living circumstances were rather primitive, this came as a very big surprise to us all)

Berber KitchenBerber Stove in the Kitchenmoroccan mint teaHaving tea with a berber girl who wants to stay anonymous

- Drive to Ourika Valley to hike up the waterfalls. If that doesn’t sound inviting enough, slipping and falling into the river is a fun option. I’m talking from experience.

The first Cascata

- Drink mint tea with a ton of sugar. Everywhere and lots of it.

Moroccan Hospitality

- People who have been to Marrakech will probably be all excited about Jardin Majorelle. I personally was not very impressed, but I guess it’s a matter of taste. If you decide to go there, definitely have some moroccan salad  for 30 dh and moroccan tea with yummy moroccan pastries at the Café Bousafsaf in the garden.

Jardin Majorelle

- Visit Bahia Palace.

Ornaments

- If you drive, rent a car and drive up to Essaouira on the coast road. The way is breathtakingly beautiful and Essaouira is a beautiful and small city to stay for a day or two. If you don’t like seagulls, don’t go.

Seagulls in Essaouira

Some other useful stuff to know when visiting Morocco

- If you look lost and someone comes up to you and offers you two show you the way, don’t go with them unless you are willing to pay them for their service. Same obviously applies to asking the way.

- Don’t be fooled by high prices at the souks. The culture there is to bargain. Don’t be shy and never pay the price someone tells you. Usually you can go down about 30 – 70 % of the initial price.

- Don’t even try to fasten your seatbelt in a taxi. The driver will laugh at you and soon after you will find out there isn’t even something to put the belt in. Nobody uses seatbelts in this country. In fact, we once were stopped by police, and after talking to my dad for about 10 minutes in French/Arabic English, the guy looked at our seatbelts and asked “why?”. My dad replied “security” in the Persian accent he uses in countries where they don’t speak English well, because he wants to conform to the people’s accent. The police man laughed.

- If you are vegetarian, always ask if the dish you are about to order (even if it is labeled vegetarian on the menu) is cooked without meat. I was served a “vegetarian” dish with meat pieces/flavour/smell three times.

- Don’t sleep in a hotel, sleep in a Riad.

Riad

- Do not always trust TripAdvisor reviews. Just go out and trust your gut instinct or ask locals.

Do you have any tips to add?

Essaouira Seaside Cat and Seagull Coffee at Marrakech Souk Donkey Garlic en masse shoe cleaner IMG_6113_Fotor Blue Bike

Vegan Spanish Tortilla

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I have a new breakfast habit. Toast with almond butter and honey. When I was living in London, my flat mate would eat the same breakfast every morning. One toast with cheese, one toast with almond butter and honey and a bowl of milk with cereal. Every single morning.

Although I don’t have the same breakfast every morning, I find myself eating toast with almond butter and honey quite often lately. I truly believe this combination to be on my top 5 list of amazing food combinations everyone should have at least once a week (next to lemon juice and garlic on roasted vegetables).

The recipe I’m sharing with you today has been on my to-post list for a considerbaly long time, given the fact we make this frittata, or spanish tortilla, about once a week.

It’s gluten-free and fairly easy to make, super rich and actually tastes like a real-deal spanish tortilla, with the slight difference that it’s vegan.

Vegan tortilla

Makes one pan (26 cm diameter), about 8 big slices

  • 150 g gram flour (2 1/4 cups)
  • 300 ml water (2 cups)
  • 1/2 cauliflower (about 400 g)
  • 1 onion
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • coconut or olive oil
  • salt

Sieve the gram flour into a big bowl and add the water. The batter should be about the consistency of a pancake batter.

making vegan spanish tortillabatter spanish tortilla

Meanwhile cut the cauliflower and steam until it’s soft (about 15 minutes). Slice and set aside.

steaming cauliflower

cauliflower for spanish tortilla

Cube the onion. In the pan you will be using for making the tortilla, heat some oil and fry the onion with the spices. If you like it spicy, you can add some chilli. Add the cauliflower and toss. Season with salt. Add everything to the batter.

cauliflower and onions

Heat some oil in the pan (the bottom of the pan should be covered with oil, otherwise your tortilla is gonna stick to the pan). Pour in the batter and cover. Cook on low heat for about 15 minutes. Quarter and turn around, cook for another 15 minutes. Serve with a nice salad.

Enjoy. 

Frittata with cauliflower

Tortilla without eggs

Vanillekipferl

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It seems to me celebrating christmas has become something purely materialistic. It’s a lot about presents and stress, because my goodness I need a present for him and her and for my boss and my colleagues and having one for my mother’s best friend would be good and the cleaning lady who greets me every now and then. About having money and supporting big companies that let us think that we need so much we actually wouldn’t even know about if it wasn’t for the perfect advertising spot on TV. About the perfectly decorated christmas tree. About the post of you and your friends wearing red hats with a white pompom. 

Let’s stay positive. Although there is no doubt in my opinion that people actually don’t celebrate the birth of Jesus, but a lot of other stuff that is far from anything religious, I enjoy this time of year. I love the atmosphere, love having a waffle at a Christkindmarkt, love seeing lights everywhere, love seeing people, families being united. In my family my great-grandmother was the only Christian, so we would celebreate christmas with her and of course, especially as a kid, it was very exciting and something I was looking forward to all december. I’m just asking myself if we are using a religious holiday to simply spend an evening with our family, cut down trees, prepare good food and think of how big next years christmas tree should be. And I’m wondering if yes, if this is something bad. Is christmas being celebrated as a religious holiday or simply as a family feast? Is there something bad about the latter? How do you celebrate christmas?

So although this year we don’t celebrate christmas, baking christmas cookies, or Weihnachtsbäckerei, are something I look forward to every year. I made a nice batch with a friend two days ago, and another one today. Vanillekipferl are so classy in Austria, I thought you might enjoy the recipe. And not only the recipe.

Vanillekipferl mit Mandeln

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Cashew and Date Truffles

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Considering the fact that the two main ingredients of these truffles are not very likely to be in the upper half of your list of favourite ingredients for sweets, I tried my best to find a fancy name. Unfortunately, the name still sounds about a hundred times worse than the taste.

The idea for this recipe comes from my aunt’s friend and I adapted it to make it as simple and foolproof as possible. When I lived in London, I often visited my family and my aunt kept telling me about these truffles her friend makes. Apparently they only contained dates, cashews, cocoa, some coconut and hemp powder. And they tasted so good. I was more than sceptical, because first of all, I am not the biggest fan of cashews and although I like dates, I couldn’t imagine how a combination of cashews and dates could possibly be so good that my aunt would repeatedly wax lyrical about them.

So it turned out they are addictive. And I mean it. I’m not sure how often you find the words healthy and addictive in one sentence. Not very often, I suppose.

Cashew and dates

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Quick and Warming Dal

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I don’t know about you, but where I am sitting right now it’s 17° C outside with sunshine. Did I miss something? It’s November.

Because the weather situation will very likely change in a few days, here’s a recipe to have on hand for cold, busy days. This soup has become one of my favourite soup recipes because it’s super-quick and substantial. Perfect with toasted bread, as something to bring to a potluck, because who doesn’t love Indian food?, or, if you fancy savoury breakfasts, as a breakfast. Call me crazy.

Also, for those of you who have a command of the German language: an article about my blog and what I would do if I had one wish in gastronews.vienna 

Indian Daal

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The Bread Recipe You’ve Been Waiting For.

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I just found this story I wrote about three weeks ago with the intention of posting a recipe. Well. I guess that didn’t exactly work. 

Have you every forgotten something on the bus? I have. I once left a really really nice lentil salad I had prepared the night before with a lot of love and was looking forward to first thing in the morning.

Have you every forgotten something important on the bus? Well. Yeah. There is a difference between a lentil salad and your birth certificate, certificate of citizenship and graduation diploma.

My feet are actually hurting while I am writing this and I am fairly exhausted, because I believe I haven’t walked/rushed/panicked/been desperate (the combination of all this – so much fun!) that much for a very long time. Just because I wasn’t focused (why were phones invented, again?) that moment I got off the bus.

I was on my way to university to bring them all those documents. And then: see above. I realised about 15 minutes after I got off the bus. I was on the phone, talking to my mum when I realised. I told her. Very much unlike her, there was a long, long, loooong pause. We were both speechless. Very much unlike us.

I thought getting off was a good idea, until I realised it wasn’t and I stayed.

I stayed, fidgeting around, insanely upset and really annoyed at how my brain was partying in a remote place, a far cry from my head.

Arriving at the lost and found bureau as if I had made an 8-hour-voyage, looking something like this, and – after telling them my fun story and asking them to try and call the driver – being told they couldn’t reach him and also, he might be from the other bus company, so they couldn’t do anything but give me the number of the said company, calling that company and telling them what had happened, just to have an unfriendly voice telling me I had to wait and could call in about 20 minutes, and after calling after 20 minutes being told that “she haaaasn’t reached him yet” in a voice I wouldn’t categorize as “friendly”, did not exactly contribute to the uplift of my mood.

Right, let’s keep it short: They found the bag, I had to go to the other side of Graz to get it and I got it. Thank God. Thanks God.


Three weeks later…

…I am very very excited to tell you about my university, because I absolutely love it. Love love love it. Not only are we in groups of 13 people most of the time, but I am also still impressed by the fact that we are in an elementary school every week. Not only as guests, but in a few weeks also as actual teachers who need to prepare small tasks for the kids. I am thrilled.

Oh, one other thing I am thrilled about is that my second cooking video is finally done and online. It would be great if you could share this really amazing recipe with the world, ang give me feedback.

Here it is. The utimate no-knead bread.

Homemade White Bread

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Creamy Sesame Polenta with Indian-Spiced Cauliflower and Pepper

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I am very greatful. I am greatful to have so many beautiful people in my life. Not only to have them actually, but to learn from them. To be surrounded by individuals who have well understood that encouragement is one of the keys to personal growth.

I have finally understood that personal growth is a matter of choice and very often means going out of your comfort zone. It means pain and not-so-pleasant moments. And the thing is: it’s easy to escape. But when you decide not to escape, you feel the change. And you like it. And want to repeat it. Because you understand that very often, in order to contribute to the betterment of something – be it your character, the way you act in certain situations or interact with people, the advancement of some aspect of society – you will have to do something you don’t feel comfortable doing, or you will be given some tests on the way there. Because well, that’s the way you change, I guess. Imagine life would be the same every day. You would always be happy, everything would be great, no injustices to worry about, nothing to worry about, really. Is that cool? It does sound quite cool, I admit. But would it do anything to you? To society? Would anything change or improve? I leave the answer to you.

In order to contribute to something big, we sometimes need to give up something small.

In other words: In order to contribute to the advanement of society, we need to give up our egos.

(I would love to hear your thoughts on that, by the way – so feel free to comment!)

 Vegetarian Polenta with Vegetables

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Khoreshte Fessenjoon – Persian Walnut and Pomegranate Stew

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Something great happened. I passed the test you have to take to study primary school education.

As an established fact, when it comes to decisions, I suck elusively. I am literally not able to take a decision (which will mould my life to some extent) without having a guilty conscience. Even if everything turns out great, I will still go through what it would have been like if I had done it the other way. Always always always.

For a long time, I was sure that language is my thing. And in fact, it still is. I wanted to study English until about a month ago. As I did under no circumstances want to go into interpreting or translating, I saw my only way out in teaching. And it was not a bad way out, I thought it was a good decision. I feel so deeply grateful for some teachers I had in school, because they shaped parts of me. They shaped who I am today. And I wanted to achieve this same thing. I wanted to give students hope, a reason to learn in life, and I wanted to be there, in case they did not have somebody who was there for them at home. This time they go through is not fun. You go through so many changes, start to investigate the world around you a bit more, start realising that what is going on in this world is not sound, and you want to change something. And you don’t know how. You need someone who understands you, who accepts you and gives you hope that at some point, things will change. And you want to feel that with some support of this someone, you will be a tiny part of this change.

I wanted to be this someone.

I wanted to be this someone because I thought that there were too little of those someones. Yes. There are too little someones. The little issue there was was that I felt like this someone could be more effective if it was surrounded by small children who are shapeable. Who still need to learn so much. Having a someone during those years might be more important and crucial than after. Might. I actually don’t know, because when I compare my primary and secondary school time, I suppose I learnt more during the latter. (See, the doubts come in again) But I still think that primary school teachers have such a great responsibility. And though I am not a huge fan of having big responsibilities, I am absolutely willing to shoulder responsibility for those cuties instead of some rowdy not-so-cuties (It’s not about the cuties, by the way, it’s about their age). I still think that secondary school teacher is one of the most important jobs on this planet, but I feel like there are people who are more appropriate for this job.

So friends, in three years I will hopefully stand in front of a mob of children who want to learn something about the world. I am so excited about that.

The test was partly on the ridiculous side, because you had to do things like this or hopping and dribbling to the beat of this, sing two songs in front of a commission consisting of two people, remember random faces with random names and their telephone numbers, hobbies, relationship statuses and birthdays, and after 45 minutes answer questions like “What hobbies does the person who was born on October 22nd have?” I failed so much at this one.

But well, I guess I am in no way entitled to complain about anything, because I passed the test.


As you might have heard or experienced, Persian food is not necessarily the best-looking food. I am talking about this dish. Let’s face it. It does not look nice. But to be honest, I couldn’t care less about it, because it just tastes so good. 

Fessenjoon (or fessenjan) is one of my absolute favourites. I just forget about it all the time as my mum is not a huge fan of it and as a consequence never cooks it and my (Austrian!!) grandma doesn’t cook it that often. But when she does, I’m in heaven.

The recipe is hers (apart from little amendments), so all tribute goes to my amazing grandmother.

Vegan and vegetarian Fessenjan

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A Guide to Homemade Curry Pastes

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Last Tuesday, I got a white sheet saying I am allowed to drive on the street with a car. Yes. I passed my driving test.

The day before the driving test, after my last two driving lessons, and my driving instructor telling me he can’t guarantee anything, I was feeling more flustered and jittery than on the day of my A-levels. It was crazy insane and ridiculous. You know that feeling. Your pulse increases, your heart beats faster and you feel like you cannot bear it anymore. Yes. I knew that feeling too. But I honestly do not think this feeling should be there 14 hours before your driving test, which by the way, is not that big of a deal. If you don’t pass, you just do it again.

On that morning I set my alarm for 5:30 a.m., as we were asked to arrive at 7 a.m. on that oh-so-important day, and having read on some internet site giving tips for your driving test, that you should by no means be there too late (obvious), and it’s better to be there half an hour before than one minute too late (not so obvious) I arrived there 20 minutes early. Before arriving early, I spent a fair amount of time in the bathroom, listening to Aretha telling me that even she was saying a prayer for me. After eating a small breakfast, thinking that the whole thing couldn’t take longer than a maximum of two hours, if at all, I made my way to the driving school, and finding the door was closed (so sure!, it’s better to be there half an hour earlier), I found a spot on a bench next to another girl (who apparently was thinking the same way I did and was probably more disappointed than I was, cause she had been waiting even longer) and we sat there, not saying a single word, and staring into our small electronic devices, also known as smart phones.

Some 20 minutes later, two other girls made an appearance, and as the two of them knew each other from the last time they had tried to get their driving test, but didn’t succeed in their plans, they started talking about all kinds of mistakes one can make and how to avoid them. We soon joined in their discussion, realising they needed help, and soon we were engaging in a nice conversation, trying to let our nervousness vanish by talking.

After some time the driving teacher came, explained us tested us on our knowledge about tires, the engine bay and the lighting system, we made our way back to the bench and anxiously waited for the examiner. The two girls who hadn’t passed the last time expressed the wish to be first, so clearly we let them go first. We expected to wait for a maximum of an hour, but not to our amusement, it turned out to be three hours and a half, as the driving teacher spontanously decided to let the two motorcyclists (who had just arrived) go first, as the sky was cloudy and we don’t want them to be taking their test in the rain, do we? No. Of course we don’t.

We dawdled away talking about how one of them looked like a combination of a slightly aged Dr. House and Hugh Grant, reassuring each other how we would obviously pass the test, me watching the other girl standing on one leg in order to train her “clutchleg” and telling each other how we would pass the test for sure. Oh, did I mention we were also assuring each other that we would both pass the test?

One thing I learned during those three, almost four hours: Waiting is worse than anything else when you are nervous. 

After what felt like eternity we finally got to take our test, and with a bit of luck, we both passed the test. With a bit of luck and a lot of help from the driving instructor, who was sitting next to me and giving me signs indicating I should drive faster or slower and constantly trying to keep up a conversation with the examiner (who against all odds, was hilarious).

Short version: I have a driver’s license. 

Homemade Thai Red Curry Paste

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