Souks, Saffron and Stuffing……

I have longed to go to Essaouira since we arrived in Morocco almost two years ago. So as you may know we finally got to go down that way on New Year’s Day. Well, it was everything people said it was and more! What a gorgeous place, not even the debris on the beach from floods the previous week or the nip in the air could spoil the charm of the place.

Essaouira has a long and colourful history dating back thousands of years. It is a chilled, relaxed place on the coast with a very “bohemian” feel to it. It is very popular with surfers, artists and musicians and to me is the perfect place to have a gentle introduction to Morocco! Over the next few posts I will share some images of our time there.


So lets start in the spice souk. One of the spices often used in Moroccan cooking is Saffron. Morocco produces a small amount of saffron each year, mostly from an area in the South of Morocco called Taliouine. In Rabat the spice souks are mostly used by locals so English is not widely spoken, and my French/Arabic does not extend far enough to have a discussion about the quality of saffron with the shopkeepers, so I usually have to go with my gut feeling and the rule of thumb, if it’s too cheap, it’s no good!

I was very pleased to find an English speaking shopkeeper in Essaouira who showed me the quality difference between the real Moroccan Saffron and the cheaper stuff which was quite dry and powdery in comparison.


I used mine to make a wonderfully fragrant couscous stuffing for a roast chicken, inspired by a recipe from Julie Le Clerc’s gorgeous book, Made in Morocco.

Roast Chicken with Saffron Couscous Stuffing

1 Whole chicken

Olive Oil

Salt and pepper

For the stuffing:

½ tsp saffron strands

½ cup boiling water

¾ cup instant couscous

1 garlic clove, crushed

1 tsp cumin

1/3 cup chopped dates

1/3 cup chopped almonds

Rind and juice of 1 orange

½ cup chopped fresh parsley, mint and coriander


Place the couscous, garlic, cumin, dates, almonds and orange juice and rind in a bowl.

Boil the water and diffuse the saffron strands in this for about 2 minutes.

Add the saffron water to the couscous, cover with cling film and leave to steam for about 10 minutes.

Use a fork to fluff up the couscous and add the herbs.

Rinse the chicken and dry thoroughly with paper towels. Stuff the couscous mixture into the cavity, pressing it in quite tightly and close this. I used a small skewer and then tied the legs together with string.

Bake in a preheated oven at 190°C for 1 ½ hours.

Before carving, leave to stand covered for about 10 minutes after removing from the oven.

I served this with some simple roasted butternut and steamed broccoli.


Have a great weekend everyone.


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4 Responses to “Souks, Saffron and Stuffing……”

  1. on 22 Jan 2010 at 2:22 pm Marisa

    WOW! That looks amazing. Your tales of Morocco are always so enchanting too!

  2. on 22 Jan 2010 at 4:29 pm Nicole

    Oh! Those pictures are absolutely beautiful!!!

    I am very, very happy to hear that you enjoyed Essaouira. Isn’t it just enchanting?? I miss it already…

    And that chicken looks delicious! I think I will have to try that out. Roasting chicken is always my go to when it comes to cooking, so I’m always looking for interesting ways to make it different.

  3. on 23 Jan 2010 at 9:22 pm Wendy

    I first travelled to Essaouira over 20 years ago, when I was young (very young!) and bold. It was my first trip by myself and I remember it so clearly. It really is the most astoundingly beautiful place and I think about it still, after all these years. I’m married now and we are planning to go there together. Thank you for the pictures – they have brightened my evening and shown my husband just what it is I mean when I talk about it!

  4. on 23 Feb 2010 at 12:18 pm Jeanne @ CookSister!

    Oh, that chicken looks incredibly good. I was wondering how they keep their ground spices in such perfect pyramids!!

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