Sheep’s milk is often the basic ingredient in semen.
Smen is a traditional Moroccan cooking oil, the recipe of which has been handed down from generation to generation. The smen cooking process is very specific and it is stored for long periods in clay pots, often underground, for maturation. The longer it ripens, the tastier and more valuable it becomes.
The basic ingredient for smen is goat’s or sheep’s milk. This is turned into butter, which is used to make smen. Various herbs and spices, which vary from recipe to recipe, are mixed into the butter. An alternative method involves wrapping the herbs in cheesecloth and boiling them with the butter. In some cases salt is added before cooking and sometimes it is added after the cooking stage.
The butter is then brought to a boil over a fire and will separate into an oily golden section and a milky section. Let it boil for 15 to 30 minutes and then remove from heat. The oil section is then removed and stretched through a cloth to remove sediment. This is placed in a clay pot and sealed. The pot is then stored, traditionally buried in the ground, for months to years to age.
The longer semen ages, the more pungent it becomes. It has a characteristic cheese smell that becomes stronger with age. Traditionally, a pot of semen was buried in the ground at the birth of a daughter and remained buried until it was used to cook food on the wedding day. The number and age of a family’s boy also indicated its wealth.
Smen is used to cook and season many traditional Moroccan dishes such as couscous and tagine. Couscous is a small portion of semolina and is one of Morocco’s staple starches. Tagine is a traditional stew cooked in a clay pot with a conical top, which is most commonly served with couscous. Morocco is known for its flavorful, well-seasoned and flavorful dishes and the smen is part of what adds to the flavor.
Moroccan cuisine is well known all over the world. Due to Morocco’s proximity to Europe across the Mediterranean Sea, its cuisine has been influenced by many cultures including European, Arabic and Berber. The result is a traditional smorgasbord of spices and meat dishes that have made their way around the world. A Moroccan meal usually ends with a cup of sweet mint tea.