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10/10/08 Cocoa cooking

As anyone who knows me will tell you, I’m a cocoa junkie. I’ve consumed more cups of hot chocolate than any three normal people.

Part of it is self-defense against coffee. I really don’t like coffee. Until I came to the Middle East, I physically couldn’t drink the stuff. It made me gag. Here, I’ve managed to choke down probably four or five cups, and those only when there was no tea available. (I’m not enormously fond of the ubiquitous green tea, either, but I’ve gotten used to it. With enough sugar and mint leaves, I almost like it.) I’ve also discovered that the way they make coffee in Morocco, it’s about 80% milk, 10% sugar, 5% cinnamon and ginger (and occasionally rosemary), and only 5% coffee. Made that way, it’s actually not too bad. I won’t go so far as to say I enjoy it, but it’s drinkable.

I’ve downed hundreds of cups of tea in the past seven months because to refuse coffee AND tea, and just drink nothing, would be hugely insulting to any Moroccan hostess.*

But I digress.

I fell in love with cocoa as a small child. As an adult, I’ve developed a taste for some teas – especially chai tea – but have never forgotten my first love. Chocolate isn’t hard to find in Morocco, and hot milk is available at every café, so when my friends and I go to a café for breakfast or a coffeebreak, I give it a shot. I’ve always been able to get hot milk, and usually they’ll serve it with chocolate, if I ask. Hot cocoa itself hasn’t quite penetrated the Moroccan consciousness, but if you ask for “hleeb b shokolat”, milk with chocolate, you’ll get steamed milk with sugar cubes on the side and a teaspoon or so of chocolate powder scattered on the foam. Mix it up and it’s a decent, if weak, cup o’ cocoa.)

Today, I tried to reproduce this. I mixed up Nido (the powdered-milk brand available here) with water, then put the mixture into a coffeepot left behind by my predecessor, and set it on a burner. I sloshed it around a few times to discourage scalding, and kept the flame low. Once I’d achieved a full boil, I poured a mugfull, and added a dash of Caobel (the Moroccan version of Quik). Result: bitter and weak. I added a spoonful of sugar and another dash of Caobel. Result: mmm, cocoa. It’s nothing like the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had, but I have six months to keep experimenting… :)

*My parents don’t drink either coffee or tea, and I’ve actually put a lot of thought into how to deal with that when they visit. In hotels and restaurants it won’t be a problem, but when they visit my host family and other homes, it could be. I’ll either need to tell Moroccans in advance that my parents just never drink them, which will probably make them seem insane, or else beg them to choke down just one cup per home. If I tell people the truth – it’s a religious thing – that’ll make me look like a bad person for not adhering to my parents’ faith. In point of fact, I do, but I also cherish the love behind hospitality. That’s why, for years, I’ve eaten meat when it was served to me, though I’ve been a vegetarian since high school. But they won't be here for many many moons, so that's a problem for another day...

1 comment:

  1. Hot Cocoa is one of the most satisfying warm drinks in the summer in the UK! I try and cook with Cocoa as much as possible as it can work with savoury dishes as well , try using a pure form of cocoa ( More that 90% such as Venezuelan-black (100%) then you can add sugar/milk to dilute to your according


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