Two chefs, from opposite sides of the globe, meet in a kitchen in New Zealand, her homeland. They marry their passion for organic cooking, a sustainable lifestyle—and each other. Eventually, they follow their bliss to Morocco, his home country, where they manage a boutique hotel and restaurant in the Atlas Mountains. Opportunity knocks again, and Fouad and Amanda Belmamoun become managers of Jerica Farm, a choice property in the Ourika Valley. When we asked Helen Ranger of Concierge Morocco to help us find an organic cooking class in Marrakech, she sent us to the couple’s Ourika Organic Kitchen and Gardens, offering bespoke cooking and eating adventures a short drive from the city.
“People leave here feeling they know Moroccan cuisine.”
–Chef Fouad Belmamoun
“You can cut corners, but only when you know the basics!”
–Chef Amanda Belmamoun
Make that organic!
The two chefs use Moroccan-made produce whenever possible, and organic whenever possible. All lamb, chicken, eggs, and olives used for their cooking is organic.
Ourika Organic Kitchen has just launched a line of organic herbal teas (olive leaf with dried orange and rose petals and lemongrass and dried ginger with lemongrass are just two examples), and also packages pickles, chutneys and relishes for sale. Coming soon: made-to-order chicken patés and small-batch fresh pasta.
Our Ourika Kitchen experience
Tom and I spent a delicious afternoon with Fouad and Amanda, learning the basics of several classic Moroccan dishes. We prepared a meal of cooked salads—courgette zaalouk, chachouka and aubergine caviar—followed by a fish tagine, prepared with chermoula-for-fish, made by my own hands. To accompany our meal, we enjoyed a dry rosé, Perle Grise de Mogador, from Essaouira. We also tasted some of Amanda’s teas, pickles, and relishes, everything lovingly prepared from produce grown on Jerica Farm.
At Ourika Organic Kitchen, the goal is to provide the foundations of Moroccan cooking, enabling the cook to know how to prepare key elements of the cuisine from scratch. Fouad told us about learning from the women—all home cooks—that he has worked with in professional kitchens. “They had flair in their hands,” he said. He certainly did his best to help me develop a bit of “flair” in my hands, as we chopped, stirred and cooked a three-course meal.
Amanda and Fouad have found their calling, and are happy to share their dream of simple, sustainable living and cooking with their guests. Tom and I came away from Jerica Farm with full bellies, and even better, full hearts. Blissfully organic, indeed!
Fouad and Amanda have been planting the farm organically for the past two years. The farm has 290 olive trees on its five hectares, and this year’s olive harvest had just finished when we visited in late October, a bit later than usual. Winter crops, such as potatoes, had been planted. As we left, a late-afternoon sun slanted through the olive grove onto the bright green of herbs and seasonal vegetables flourishing beneath the trees.
If you go
At Jerica Farm, Fouad and Amanda offer a unique combination of bespoke cooking and eating adventures for travelers:
- Join the Belmamouns for an afternoon of chopping and cooking by the pool (up to eight per cooking session). Afterward, sit down to the meal you have prepared, with tea and water, and a glass of wine. Cooking classes are Moroccan cuisine only and wine is an extra charge.
- Order up a catered luncheon for up to 10 guests, prepared to your specifications by the chefs of Ourika Organic Kitchen. Catered meals can be Moroccan or western-styled.
- If an afternoon doesn’t seem long enough here, book a stay in one of the farm’s four beautifully appointed rooms. Overnight stays include breakfast and cooking classes to suit guests’ preferences.
- Drivers for transfer to/from Marrakech and for excursions to local village souks can be arranged, as well.
- Can’t get out to the farm for a class or a meal? Ayaso, an organic shop in Marrakech, stocks all Ourika Organic Kitchen products.
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Our cooking experience was arranged through Concierge Morocco, a specialist in personalized travel inMorocco. We were guests of Ourika Organic Kitchen and Gardens, and reveled in every scrumptious minute of our time with Fouad and Amanda!