A day with Samira – The ultimate cooking experience at Riad Anata!
Walking down the streets of the souk she waves to everyone and everyone waves back. She walks with confidence and a big smile on her face. Samira is a wonderful, intelligent local who loves and lives for cooking – and her positive energy is so contagious that you can’t help but feel happy when you’re around her.
Samira, our guide, had greeted us earlier with a massive smile on her face at the entrance to the beautiful Riad Anata, a stunning Riad in the heart of the Medina in Fez, Morocco. This cooking course was recommended by some friends as the ultimate Fez experience, and we were hungry for the adventure.
She loves meeting new people, and is curious to hear about us while she tells us a little bit about herself and her life here. As we walk, we pass by her children’s school before entering the souk and she opens up about family life in Fez. Back when she was a child, she used to have lunch and dinner together with all her family every day. Her dad, who had two wives, was a very traditional man, and for him it was extremely important to eat together with his family and pray before each meal. Nowadays, she says young kids and teenagers prefer eating fast food or something quick, so she eats together with her family only once a week – a fact that brings a slight tinge of sadness in her eyes. In any case, she is happy to be able to share with us the recipes that have been passed on from generation to generation in her family.
As we walk around the winding streets of the Medina and through the smells and colours of the souk, the market of Fez, she points out the best ingredients to use for the tajine we were making later. “It’s important to choose only the freshest vegetables” she tells us as she squeezes, rubs and smells the tomatoes, potatoes, carrots and lemons before adding them to a small wicker basket she carries on her arm.
Samira takes us to buy vegetables, beef, spices and fresh fruit. We are delighted with the experience and as we walk alongside her, we feel part of the neighbourhood as she seems to know everyone there and walks the streets of the zouk with confidence.
The zouk is quite an experience, with men in donkey-drawn carts yelling to get out of their way, an intense mixture of smells, kids running through the narrow streets that separate the kiosques and people; just normal people going about their daily activities and living what is a normal day for them. But for us, it is spectacular.
Back at Riad Anata, armed with a wicker basket brimming with ingredients, we set up the beautiful kitchen ready to cook along with her. On the menu today is:
White bean and garlic soup (perfect for the chilly and windy day in Fez)A green salad with kiwis and strawberriesAn aubergine salad (my favourite discovery and so easy to make)Two tajines – one vegetarian and one Kefta (with kefta meatballs and eggs)A fruit and vegetable smoothie for dessert.
Before we start cooking she offers us some delicious moroccan treats and mint tea – as it is a tradition in Morocco. Being in the kitchen with her makes us feel as if we are at her own house. She is so warm and kind, just like a mother. The hours fly without even noticing it.
While cooking, talk turns to travel, family and happiness. We ask her: “Samira, can we ask you what makes you happy in life?” She didn’t even pause for a second before she replied “food, and family”. You can see the joy in her eyes when she says it. You can see she really is a happy person and that really touches us. It only confirms the belief that you don’t need a lot to be happy.
Once we’re done cooking, she sets up a table on the roof of Riad Anata. It’s a hidden sanctuary that feels like paradise, and the sun beats down on us gloriously as we dine. We couldn’t feel happier and luckier to be there with the sun shining, the stunning views of Fez, the wonderful company of Samira and the most delicious Tajines we’ve ever had! The food was really exquisite and from beginning to end, it really was the ultimate Fez experience that we will never forget.