Sunday, 25 August 2013

Moroccan holiday diaries : Discovering argan oil and goat trees !

One of the picturesque towns that we visited in Morocco was Essaouira, a lovely fishing port, and one of the big attractions on the road from Agadir (where we were based) to Essaouira is what the locals call goat trees. These trees are actually argan trees but the goats love the nuts that grow in them and don't hesitate to climb up into the trees - as far as 6m above the ground apparently ! - to get their hands (or hooves) on the much sought-after nibbles.

The goats aren't the only ones to like the nuts though. They are transformed into argan oil which is dubbed the liquid gold of Morocco.

We visited one of the cooperatives that employ widowed and divorced women to produce argan oil in the traditional way by hand.

The first woman breaks the shells to get to the kernels insde, which is what produce the oil.

The second woman uses two large stones to crush them to a paste and the third woman kneads the mixture by hand to release the oil.

Juliette had a go and said it's very hard work. In the souks, they have mechanised versions of these machines, but the hand-produced oils are apparently of a much higher quality.

Argan oil can be used in a wide range of beauty products and also for culinary purposes, in which case the kernels need to be roasted before being ground. They create an oil with a delicious nutty flavour which offers a whole host of health boosts - it's good for the heart, lowers cholesterol, helps feed your brain, is great for healthy joints ... It appears to be the cure for all evils, if you listen to the people in the cooperatives !

The oil can't be heated to very high temperatures so should be used to drizzle over salads or at the end of cooking to add a nutty flavour to your dish. It's an expensive oil, compared to olive oil and other vegetable oils, but when you see how labour-intensive it is, you can see why.

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

Moroccan pastry recipe : Gazelle Horns

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