Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Moroccan Magic - Olive Market in Malden, MA

Olive Market's Harira, Traditional Moroccan Soup

A good friend of mine hounded me for weeks a couple months ago to visit Olive Market in Malden.  Eventually, I made plans with my family to go there with him, check it out and make dinner with product from the store.  We all had an awesome experience learning about Moroccan cuisine and ingredients.  I had such a great time meeting Mostaf (the owner), his wife Nora, son Adam and the staff.  They all made us feel like family while we were in their lovely store.  I felt the least I could do in return was to blog in hopes that I could help spread the word.  I talked Mostaf into doing an interview in a few weeks.

I show up before Mostaf and start chatting with Nabil, a student employee.  I explain to him my plan to write about Olive Market.  I request to take some shots of the store.  Below are pictures of just a few of the many Moroccan items they carry.

Traditional Tagine

Countless Bags of Dried Mint
Coconut, Nuts and Dried Fruits

After I mill around the store for a bit, I grab a seat and Nabil serves me a bowl of harira.  "Mostaf told me to take care of you."  I thank him for the soup and begin enjoying it.  My friend walks into the store shortly after.  Mostaf shows up and quickly greets me.  He heads out back to touch base with his crew and get ready for the day.

A family heads up to the counter immediately to my left and starts chatting it up with Mostaf.  I figure the lady's a regular and I tell her that I'm writing about the store.  She introduces herself as Aisha and she's originally from the UK.  I ask her to talk a little about Mostaf, his family and the establishment. 

Here's what she had to say:
"There's nothing like this in the whole of Malden and I'm a foodie, so I look.  Seriously, I come every day.  It's fresh... not the same as everyone else's menu.  [Olive Market has] ...all the traditional things from Morocco." 

Kefta Being Prepared with Freshly Ground Meat


"I have bought the kefta from here because it's all hand made and it's got the spices in it already and the sausages as well."

One focus of the store is the organic Halal meat.  They carry chicken, beef, lamb and goat.  They typically have sides of beef, whole lamb and goat hanging in the walk in for cut to order.  They also provide all sorts of offal.


I hear the meat band saw buzzing through bone at the end of our conversation.  I love that sound, so I head over to see what's going on.  Lahcen, the butcher, has shifted over to grinding some beef. 

He sees that I have a camera and asks me to take a good picture of him.  He requests that I send him the prints, so he can send them home to his family.  How could I refuse his heartfelt request?

Nabil is cooking some chicken on the griddle.  I ask how it's been seasoned and Mostaf tells me that it has turmeric, white pepper, paprika and cinnamon.

I notice that Mostaf is heating up a skillet.  He tells me that he's making an egg and tomato scramble for his breakfast.  He seasons it with paprika, turmeric, black pepper and salt.

"Usually, I add some blue cheese, but we don't have blue cheese [today]."  I really wished he had.

Lahcen requests to have more pictures of him to be taken.  Who’s going to refuse a nice guy who cuts meat for a living?  I get a good one of Mostaf and Lahcen together.  Mostaf comments, “We have to lose weight.”  I say, "Nah, you guys look fine." 

I ask Mostaf about the coffee he’s making.  He tells me that Moroccans, “…don’t just use regular coffee. We use cinnamon, ginger, black pepper and nutmeg.”

Back to the eggs.  “When I eat it, I add something different.  I’m going to add tahini. It’s very rich in calcium.” He also adds a side of raspberry jam and surrounds the eggs with some dates.  “I love dates in the morning."

We all sit down when Mostaf finishes plating his brunch that will carry him until late in the evening after closing. Mostaf offers me some of his chef’s meal.

I ask my friend if he’d like some too, but he protests with, "That’s all he’s going to eat until the end of the day."  Mostaf adds, “I’m glad he already had the soup, otherwise he’ll eat all my breakfast.” We all have a nice chuckle at my expense.  “Eat! No double dipping!  People, when they eat together they become family.” 

Mostaf begins to explain how, “Moroccans love to eat with their hands. I prefer using my hands because my hands are the best tool.”  He rips off a small piece of bread, demonstrates and says, “Remember maximum three, two on one.”


So we start the interview...

JD:  What are your favorite parts of the animal to prepare outside of main cuts?

Mostaf:  Shoulder and neck of the lamb. "It depends on the mood and what you want to eat," as well as the season.  "You must cook with the bone, because it brings flavor."
Dedicated Sign for Couscous, Enough Said

JD:  For those who haven't tried Moroccan cuisine, what should they try?

Mostaf:  "Couscous is a must. [It's] very healthy, has lots of vegetables and it's steamed.  It brings family together.  Twenty people eat from one plate," that's about two feet in diameter.

JD:  You once said to me that, "Guests are a gift from God." Can you talk a little more about that?

Mostaf:  "When you have a guest, give them the best you have.  If we are cooking lentils and chicken, we give them the meat. The hospitality in Morocco is very unique."

Harira Simmering Away

JD:  What are your favorite things to cook for family?

Mostaf:  "Soup, harira, lots of good stuff inside.  Sometimes I like to do a tagine with lamb." 

Start of the Beef and Prune Stew

"Beef with prunes, good for [the] digestive system.  You always need bones with meat."

JD:  What are your favorite spices?

Mostaf:  Paprika, cinnamon, nutmeg, white pepper and tumeric.  "If it was up to me, I would put cinnamon in everything."

JD:  What is unique about Moroccan tea?

Mostaf:  "Every house has tea. Everybody drinks tea."  The fresh mint has to be strong.  The plants need to get lots of sun.  Farmers starve the plants of water for five to seven days before harvest to concentrate the flavor.   There is an interesting method of pouring the tea.  It is poured from a distance by raising your hand high in order to make it foam.  One tenth of the glass should be foam.  "Never, ever fill up the glass. Always half way," because it's elegant.   

Making Moroccan tea is a very old tradition.  "You learn from a professional. You can observe for ten to fifteen years before you start learning."  People specifically ask for trained individuals to make tea for large parties.  If you make tea for guests, "you have to be confident, 200%."  It's an honor if you're asked and people enjoy your tea. However, it's a disgrace if it's not good.    

"You need two to three hours to enjoy tea.  It's quality time with tea and friends."

Mostaf closes the interview with, “Wait until we get the hood. We [will] do shawarma, falafel, Moroccan cuisine…then you’ll see the difference.”


I learned a lot from Mostaf and his family at Olive Market over my two visits.  I am still in awe of the Moroccan hospitality.  It is refreshing to experience and quite infectious.  I also took away an interest in implementing sweet preserved fruit elements into savory dishes, which I only dabbled in before. 

Please go to Olive Market and take part in this family's American dream.  I plan to do a monthly run to get some great cuts of meat and my date fix.  Maybe I'll see you there?  I close with a quote from Aisha, "I think everyone should come.  Everyone needs a part of Morocco in their house."

74 Pleasant Street
Malden, MA 02155
(781) 324-5900


Here's what I made with ingredients I picked up.  Enjoy the show.

Moroccan Spice Rub:
Paprika, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, White Pepper and Turmeric

Lovely Color & Scent

Moroccan Spiced Lamb Chops w/ Mushroom Tomato Marsala Sauce
& Braised Freshly Made Sausages

Chops Rubbed with Spices and Olive Oil

Seared on the Cast Iron

Braised Sausages, Mushrooms & Tomatoes Plated

Lamb Chops Plated & Sauced

Moroccan Spiced Roasted Butternut Squash
w/ Pearl Onions & Golden Raisins

Large Dice of Butternut Topped with Spice Mix

Mixed Above with Olive Oil and Golden Raisins

Results After 15 Minutes @ 400 F

Stop, Sweet Savory Squash

Moroccan Spiced Couscous

Toasting Couscous with Onion and Spice Mix

Couscous with Chicken Broth Added

Pearls of Goodness

Drop me a comment and let us know about your recent Moroccan experience.  Would love to share it.


  1. Great post - lots of interesting details. Did I miss the address in here somewhere?

  2. Georgia,

    Glad you liked it. Sorry about missing the address. It's there now.


  3. wow looks amazing what a great experience and your a fab cook