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The Recipe & History Of One Of The Best Moroccan Coucous, La Mamounia’s Version

“There are as many couscous recipes as people who eat couscous”. Faced with such a statement, Rachid Agouray (50 years old) smiles skeptically, hesitates, and offers a hearty denial: “There’s not so many, it’s one thing that everyone thinks they know how to make couscous… That, I’ll give you”.

Agouray is the executive chef of the Moroccan restaurant La Mamounia and the second head chef of the Marrakesh Palace, which just celebrated its 100-year anniversary and was sixth on this year’s list of the world’s 50 best hotels. King Mohamed VI often calls on Rachid to helm his official events, and Rachid represents Morocco in the elite Chefs des Chefs club, which brings together the chefs of heads of state.

It’s likely that this man makes Morocco’s best couscous. With a generous smile, he allows us to enter his kitchen, caress his pans and stick our noses in its spices. The refinement and smell of oranges and ripe dates so typical of La Mamounia remain upstairs. In the kitchen, ceilings are low, it’s hot, and they work hard and in a hurry. It smells of cumin, harissa, cinnamon, saffron and black pepper. Not necessarily in that order. When the job becomes particularly tense, Rachid applies anti-stress therapy: he escapes to the vegetable garden and walks to the end of its plots. There, he finds the peace he needs to return to the kitchen.

Rachid came to La Mamounia at the age of 16, and just turned 50. He trained with Boujemaa Mars, the hotel’s former chef, his father-in-law and a kind of spiritual parent. His team is comprised of 96% women who have learned the local recipes from mothers and grandmothers. The chef’s mission is delicate, to respect tradition and keep it alive, while creating a contemporary and sophisticated cuisine, in which the flavors of Morocco can still be recognized.

We’ve come down to the kitchens because Rachid is about to cook one of his star recipes for EL PAÍS, the couscous with seven vegetables. It is a Berber dish that is prepared in large quantities to feed the whole family, and which he has adapted to serve 10 customers. “The secret of Moroccan cooking lies in knowing how to use spices, and not letting them use you. Each recipe has its own mix, and they are not interchangeable. We use turmeric, saffron, cinnamon, but in order and proportion. Some dishes are sweet and salty at the same time”. To one side, a tray full of small jars of colored powders guards this mystery. His other commandment is to respect timing. “Many recipes are prepared the night before, they are marinated, they demand time and you have to give it to them. If you are in a hurry, don’t start making couscous,” he says.

As he mixes the semolina, aerating it, lifting pieces with his fingers, the chef insists that this is not a laissez faire process. There are rules, ratios, a specific blend of spices and technique for cooking the semolina. “If you add garlic and cumin, it doesn’t matter how well you do the rest of it, it’s going to be a disaster for sure”. According to the recipe that he later sends us in written form, the only acceptable spices for this version of couscous are powdered ginger, saffron, parsley, cilantro and cayenne.

Chef Rachid Agouray (Hotel La Mamounia, Marrakech) preparing the restaurant's trademark dish, couscous.
Chef Rachid Agouray (Hotel La Mamounia, Marrakech) preparing the restaurant’s trademark dish, couscous. Asier Rua

Cayenne, cumin, cinnamon, turmeric and saffron are some of the spices endemic to Moroccan cuisine. When it comes to their blends, the most well-known in Morocco has been the ras el hanout, which can feature 18 or more spices. Rachid says that Berber women have been mixing the spices of the ras el hanout for 11 centuries, including his own grandmother and mother. He says that each family has its own version and that they don’t share recipes. No two mixes are the same. The Agouray family’s uses cardamom, cinnamon, black pepper, nutmeg, cumin, walnuts… And he won’t say what else. This isn’t the kind of information that leaves home. He’ll share the finished blend, but never the recipe.

His mission is to create a Mediterranean gastronomic concept that preserves Moroccan cooking and flavors. Many of these recipes can be sampled at the restaurant he runs at La Mamounia, where he has brought the international experience he gained working in luxury restaurants around the world, from Lucas Carton to Cipriani to the Hotel Du Palais in Biarritz. “I have managed to incorporate some ingredients from other cultures, but they are always cooked our way and with our spices to achieve the correct equilibrium of flavors,” he says.

During his years at La Mamounia, he has learned to be “patient” and “generous”. “That’s how they’ve treated me everywhere else, so I share what I know and what I have. It’s a way of life.”

Over more than three decades, he’s seen how the clientele has become evermore demanding and fickle. “Their tastes have not changed, but their habits have,” he sums up. “Before, it was enough that a dish was delicious, now its presentation is very important, the plates have to come out perfect from the kitchen and be delectable. One of the two is not enough.”

Rachid says that customers are “getting more difficult to surprise”, and that they have very concrete and rigid expectations of what constitutes a luxury experience. “They are also very specific about their needs, very aware of their desires, and I would say even that they are willing to challenge the chef with their intolerances and allergies”. The most extravagant instance? “Well, there was one man who didn’t want salt, spices or olive oil in his food, and yet he wanted to try Moroccan cuisine”.

Ingredients

For 10 people

800 g of medium-ground seminola

250 g of carrot

250 g of turnips

250 g of zucchini

250 g of white cabbage

200 g of eggplant

250 g of fresh crushed tomatoes

250 g of onion

50 g of cooked garbanzos

50 g of raisins

10 milliliters of olive oil

5 ml of cooking oil

10 g of powdered ginger

1 g of saffron

1 bunch of parsley

1 bunch of cilantro

25 g of cayenne

Instructions

1. This is the base recipe for couscous, to which meats can be added. It is designed for use with a couscoussier. Rachid recommends always cooking the vegetable in the closest compartment to the heat source, and using the steam to cook the couscous in the upper compartment.

2. Preparation: In the lower compartment of a couscoussier (pot for preparing steamed couscous), fry the sliced onions, parsley and cilantro. Add spices.

3. Cut the vegetables length-wise, cover with water and put them to boil, starting with the carrots and turnips. When they are halfway done, add tomato, the rest of the vegetables and the garbanzos. Set the broth aside.

4. Put the seminola in a tray with a pinch of salt, a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle with water. Place in the couscous strainer (the upper compartment of the couscoussier) and let it hydrate with the steam from the cooking vegetables. Repeat this procedure three times.

5. Serve the couscous. Offer hot sauce in a separate receptacle.


Culture

Assessing Property Size: What Square Footage Can You Get With The Average UK House Price In Your Area?

Assessing Property Size In The UK

In the United Kingdom, there is a prevailing tendency to gauge the size of residences based on the number of bedrooms rather than square footage. In fact, research indicates that three out of five individuals are unaware of the square footage of their property.

However, a comprehensive analysis conducted by Savills reveals significant variations in property sizes throughout the country. For instance, with the average property price standing at £340,837, this amount would typically afford a studio flat spanning 551 square feet in London, according to the prominent estate agency.

Conversely, in the North East region, the same sum would secure a spacious five-bedroom house measuring 1,955 square feet, nearly four times the size of a comparable property in London.

Best value: Heading to the North East of England is where buyers will get the most from their money

In Scotland, the median house price equates to a sizable investment capable of procuring a generous four-bedroom residence spanning 1,743 square feet. Conversely, in Wales, Yorkshire & The Humber, and the North West, this sum affords a slightly smaller four-bedroom dwelling of approximately 1,500 square feet, while in the East and West Midlands, it accommodates a 1,300 square foot home. In stark contrast, within the South West, £340,837 secures a modest 1,000 square foot property, and in the East, an even more confined 928 square feet.

London presents the most challenging market, where this budget offers the least purchasing power. Following closely, the South East allows for 825 square feet of space or a medium-sized two-bedroom dwelling. Lucian Cook, head of residential research at Savills, emphasizes the profound disparity in purchasing potential across Britain, ranging from compact studio flats in London to spacious four or five-bedroom residences in parts of North East England.

While square footage serves as a critical metric, with a significant portion of Britons unfamiliar with their property’s dimensions, the number of bedrooms remains a traditional indicator of size. Personal preferences, such as a preference for larger kitchens, may influence property selection. For those prioritizing ample space, Easington, County Durham, offers a substantial 2,858 square foot, five-bedroom home, while Rhondda, Wales, and Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Scotland, provide 2,625 and 2,551 square feet, respectively. Conversely, in St Albans, Hertfordshire, £340,837 secures a mere 547 square feet, equivalent to a one-bedroom flat.

The disparity continues in central London, where purchasing power diminishes considerably. In Kensington, the budget accommodates a mere 220 square feet, contrasting with the slightly more spacious 236 square feet in Westminster. Conversely, in Dagenham, the same investment translates to 770 square feet. Three properties currently listed on Rightmove exemplify the diversity within this price range across the UK market.

South of the river: This semi-detached house is located near to three different train stations

South of the river: This semi-detached house is located near to three different train stations

2. Lewisham: One-bed house, £345,000

This one-bedroom property in Lewisham, South London, is on the market for £345,000.

The semi-detached house is set over two floors, and has a private patio.

The property is located near to bus links and amenities, as well as Catford train station.

Edinburgh fringe: This three-bed property is located on the edge of the city, near to the town of Musselburgh

Edinburgh fringe: This three-bed property is located on the edge of the city, near to the town of Musselburgh

3. Edinburgh: Three-bed house, £350,000

This three-bedroom detached house in Edinburgh could be yours for £350,000.

The house, which has a two-car driveway, boasts a large kitchen diner, and is within easy reach of Newcriaghall train station.


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Culture

Top 10 Florida Cities Dominate The Business Startup Landscape In The U.S.

Top 10 Florida Cities And Business Startup Landscape In The U.S.

The Voice Of EU | Florida emerges as a hub for entrepreneurial endeavors, with its vibrant business landscape and conducive environment for startups. Renowned for its low corporate tax rates and a high concentration of investors, the Sunshine State beckons aspiring entrepreneurs seeking fertile grounds to launch and grow their businesses.

In a recent report by WalletHub, Florida cities dominate the list of the top 10 best destinations for business startups, showcasing their resilience and economic vitality amidst challenging times.

From Orlando’s thriving market to Miami’s dynamic ecosystem, each city offers unique advantages and opportunities for entrepreneurial success. Let’s delve into the chronologically listed cities that exemplify Florida’s prominence in the business startup arena.

1. Orlando Leads the Way: Orlando emerges as the most attractive market in the U.S. for business startups, with a remarkable surge in small business establishments. WalletHub’s latest report highlights Orlando’s robust ecosystem, fostering the survival and growth of startups, buoyed by a high concentration of investors per capita.

2. Tampa Takes Second Place: Securing the second spot among large cities for business startups, Tampa boasts a favorable business environment attributed to its low corporate tax rates. The city’s ample investor presence further fortifies startups, providing essential resources for navigating the initial years of business operations.

3. Charlotte’s Diverse Industries: Claiming the third position, Charlotte stands out for its diverse industrial landscape and exceptionally low corporate taxes, enticing companies to reinvest capital. This conducive environment propels entrepreneurial endeavors, contributing to sustained economic growth.

4. Jacksonville’s Rising Profile: Jacksonville emerges as a promising destination for startups, bolstered by its favorable business climate. The city’s strategic positioning fosters entrepreneurial ventures, attracting aspiring business owners seeking growth opportunities.

5. Miami’s Entrepreneurial Hub: Miami solidifies its position as a thriving entrepreneurial hub, attracting businesses with its dynamic ecosystem and strategic location. The city’s vibrant startup culture and supportive infrastructure make it an appealing destination for ventures of all sizes.

6. Atlanta’s Economic Momentum: Atlanta’s ascent in the business startup landscape underscores its economic momentum and favorable business conditions. The city’s strategic advantages and conducive policies provide a fertile ground for entrepreneurial ventures to flourish.

7. Fort Worth’s Business-Friendly Environment: Fort Worth emerges as a prime destination for startups, offering a business-friendly environment characterized by low corporate taxes. The city’s supportive ecosystem and strategic initiatives facilitate the growth and success of new ventures.

8. Austin’s Innovation Hub: Austin cements its status as an innovation hub, attracting startups with its vibrant entrepreneurial community and progressive policies. The city’s robust infrastructure and access to capital foster a conducive environment for business growth and innovation.

9. Durham’s Emerging Entrepreneurship Scene: Durham’s burgeoning entrepreneurship scene positions it as a promising destination for startups, fueled by its supportive ecosystem and strategic initiatives. The city’s collaborative culture and access to resources contribute to the success of new ventures.

10. St. Petersburg’s Thriving Business Community: St. Petersburg rounds off the top 10 with its thriving business community and supportive ecosystem for startups. The city’s strategic advantages and favorable business climate make it an attractive destination for entrepreneurial endeavors.

Despite unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Great Resignation, and high inflation, these top Florida cities remain resilient and well-equipped to overcome obstacles, offering promising opportunities for business owners and entrepreneurs alike.


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Culture

European Startup Ecosystems Awash With Gulf Investment – Here Are Some Of The Top Investors

European Startup Ecosystem Getting Flooded With Gulf Investments

The Voice Of EU | In recent years, European entrepreneurs seeking capital infusion have widened their horizons beyond the traditional American investors, increasingly turning their gaze towards the lucrative investment landscape of the Gulf region. With substantial capital reservoirs nestled within sovereign wealth funds and corporate venture capital entities, Gulf nations have emerged as compelling investors for European startups and scaleups.

According to comprehensive data from Dealroom, the influx of investment from Gulf countries into European startups soared to a staggering $3 billion in 2023, marking a remarkable 5x surge from the $627 million recorded in 2018.

This substantial injection of capital, accounting for approximately 5% of the total funding raised in the region, underscores the growing prominence of Gulf investors in European markets.

Particularly noteworthy is the significant support extended to growth-stage companies, with over two-thirds of Gulf investments in 2023 being directed towards funding rounds exceeding $100 million. This influx of capital provides a welcome boost to European companies grappling with the challenge of securing well-capitalized investors locally.

Delving deeper into the landscape, Sifted has identified the most active Gulf investors in European startups over the past two years.

Leading the pack is Aramco Ventures, headquartered in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Bolstered by a substantial commitment, Aramco Ventures boasts a $1.5 billion sustainability fund, alongside an additional $4 billion allocated to its venture capital arm, positioning it as a formidable player with a total investment capacity of $7 billion by 2027. With a notable presence in 17 funding rounds, Aramco Ventures has strategically invested in ventures such as Carbon Clean Solutions and ANYbotics, aligning with its focus on businesses that offer strategic value.

Following closely is Mubadala Capital, headquartered in Abu Dhabi, UAE, with an impressive tally of 13 investments in European startups over the past two years. Backed by the sovereign wealth fund Mubadala Investment Company, Mubadala Capital’s diverse investment portfolio spans private equity, venture capital, and alternative solutions. Notable investments include Klarna, TIER, and Juni, reflecting its global investment strategy across various sectors.

Ventura Capital, based in Dubai, UAE, secured its position as a key player with nine investments in European startups. With a presence in Dubai, London, and Tokyo, Ventura Capital boasts an international network of limited partners and a sector-agnostic investment approach, contributing to its noteworthy investments in companies such as Coursera and Spotify.

Qatar Investment Authority, headquartered in Doha, Qatar, has made significant inroads into the European startup ecosystem with six notable investments. As the sovereign wealth fund of Qatar, QIA’s diversified portfolio spans private and public equity, infrastructure, and real estate, with strategic investments in tech startups across healthcare, consumer, and industrial sectors.

MetaVision Dubai, a newcomer to the scene, has swiftly garnered attention with six investments in European startups. Focusing on seed to Series A startups in the metaverse and Web3 space, MetaVision raised an undisclosed fund in 2022, affirming its commitment to emerging technologies and innovative ventures.

Investcorp, headquartered in Manama, Bahrain, has solidified its presence with six investments in European startups. With a focus on mid-sized B2B businesses, Investcorp’s diverse investment strategies encompass private equity, real estate, infrastructure, and credit management, contributing to its notable investments in companies such as Terra Quantum and TruKKer.

Chimera Capital, based in Abu Dhabi, UAE, rounds off the list with four strategic investments in European startups. As part of a prominent business conglomerate, Chimera Capital leverages its global reach and sector-agnostic approach to drive investments in ventures such as CMR Surgical and Neat Burger.

In conclusion, the burgeoning influx of capital from Gulf investors into European startups underscores the region’s growing appeal as a vibrant hub for innovation and entrepreneurship. With key players such as Aramco Ventures, Mubadala Capital, and Ventura Capital leading the charge, European startups are poised to benefit from the strategic investments and partnerships forged with Gulf investors, propelling them towards sustained growth and success in the global market landscape.


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