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Pumpkin used in Moroccan cooking?


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I just got back from a cookery class tonight featuring vegetarian dishes. The first course was a "Moroccan vegetarian soup" that featured pumpkin, carrots, zucchini and asparagus along with other ingredients that I consider more universal: onion, garlic, lemon juice and zest, salt and pepper. The garnish was basil. It was good, but I was surprised at its billing as "Moroccan". When I asked the teacher what made this a Moroccan dish, he said that pumpkins are in common use around the Mediterranean, and that he was doing a riff on a Moroccan Pumpkin soup he'd gotten from somewhere.

Really?

Pumpkins and other winter squash are a New World food. I know foods have migrated both ways across the waters, so pumpkins may have migrated to North Africa - but I've never heard about it before. Are pumpkins in common use in Morocco now? Would a soup featuring pumpkin, asparagus, carrots and zucchini be a likely find over there? If so, what spices would one expect to find in that soup?

ObTranslationCheck: he was quite definitely using puree of what we Yanks call pumpkin - you know, the big orange things that get turned into Jack O'Lanterns or, if sweeter, pies.

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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It's been a few years since New World/Old World contact. We even have pumpkins in Australia now. :smile: From personal experience I can't remember seeing any, but I wasn't looking for them. The climate is right and they are easy to grow so I would expect to find them there.

There are references to pumpkins in Morocco in the 19th century and there are various types found there. As part of a wider genertic analysis of Curcurbita moschata two samples from Morocco were included and there is a Cucurbita moschata variety there known as "Courge bédouine" in Morocco. So they are present.

Not sure how common or regional they are though.

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:laugh: I was hoping you'd weigh in, Adam. Your knowledge and humor are always a pleasure.

Anyone else?

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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I'm more skeptical about the asparagus, frankly... :raz:

I live above a Turkish-Moroccan grocer who (seasonally) sells big wedges of a pumpkin-like beast, pre-cut into pieces that weigh about 1 kilo each.

I don't imagine that you'd find a pumpkin soup with asparagus in Morocco, but I would wager that pumpkins are in common use and have been for at least a couple of hundred years.

Claudia Roden's New Book of Middle Eastern Food has a Moroccan Pumpkin Soup in it, as well as 7 other pumpkin recipes....

A completely cheapo Moroccan cookbook I've got has a recipe for a tajine with lentils and pumpkin, and a pumpkin and potato stew with honey and raisins. The pairings with potato and lentils suggest that this is not an exotic ingredient, but something that has been grouped in with the "cucina povera" staples.

Spices? Assuming you're leaving out the asparagus: cinnamon for sure, cumin, and probably a touch of harissa and cilantro. This is actually quite a popular soup here in Amsterdam these days, I never actually considered that it might be Moroccan in origin...but we do have a ton of Moroccans here.

ETA: Here's an interesting link that uses a Moroccan Pumpkin Soup recipe to explore the migration of Jewish food culture, and quotes Claudia Roden about pumpkin coming to Morocco via Spanish conquistadors...

Edited by markemorse (log)
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Thanks for that additional information, Mark. I'll have to break out Roden's book again; the pumpkins hadn't registered on me before. That was a neat link, too!

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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Roden's book also has a pumpkin jam in it, which I make quite often (at least, it's in the old edition that I have).

Christopher Columbus apparently brought squash(es) back to Europe. Same site lists Egypt as one of the biggies in terms of cultivation.

Thanks for the link, markemorse, signing off and heading for chickpeas and pressure-cooker right now!

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  • 1 month later...

Think of pumpkins just like you would chilies and tomatoes... Those are also New World foods, yet most people heavily associate them with Italian, Indian, and other non-New World cuisines. 1492 was a long, long time ago!

In reverse, bananas/plantains, I believe, are native to Austral-Asia, yet are now absolutely part of New World cuisines.

ETA: There is a interesting book on this very subject, America's First Cuisines, by Sophoe Coe. I am sure there are others, but I have read this one and it's fascinating.

Judy

Edited by JumpinJude (log)

-- Judy B

If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay home.

--James Michener

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There is a big, round, flattish white pumpkin that is most commonly used in most of africa. It doesn't have much of a seed cavity and is mostly pumpkin flesh inside.

As far as I know, this is what Africans refer to with the word "pumpkin." It was always served at our house and we never, ever saw the big orange pumpkins.

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Tajine de viande à la courge rouge is a famous Moroccan dish. It is made with the Cucurbita moschata Adam refers to. Various squashes and pumpkins have been used all over the Mediterranean for centuries, Greece, Italy, France, North Africa — think zucchini, where do you think the word comes from? :wink:

My Algerian aunt makes an incredible couscous aux sept légumes to which she adds large chunks of that cucurbita moschata, a vegetable that adds wonderful texture and taste to the other couscous ingredients. I couldn't think of homemade couscous without a bit of that squash.

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