About "Argan oil" and a recipe.
A few months ago we took our yearly family vacation to Morocco and were able to get our hands on Argan oil. I must say I'm quite facinated by this oil and find my self reading and researching more and more about it. Below are a few articles I found online. There's a few different types of Argan oil found and sold in Morocco, toasted Argan oil is good for cooking and dipping bread while the raw oil extract is said to be good for hair and skin. Moroccans have many uses for Argan oil, from culinary to healing purposes such as dermatological disorders. Argan oil is an extremely important export of Morocco. It comes from the argan tree, a gnarled tree which flourishes in the arid and difficult conditions of Morocco.
Argan oil is an oil produced from the kernels of the argan tree, endemic to Morocco, that is valued for its nutritive, cosmetic and numerous medicinal properties. The tree, a relict species from the Tertiary age, is extremely well adapted to drought and other environmentally difficult conditions of southwestern Morocco. The species Argania once covered North Africa and is now endangered and under protection of UNESCO. The Argan tree grows wild in semi-desert soil, its deep root system helping to protect against soil erosion and the northern advance of the Sahara. This biosphere reserve, the Arganeraie Biosphere Reserve, covers a vast intramontane plain of more than 2,560,000 hectares, bordered by the High Atlas and Anti-Atlas Mountains and open to the Atlantic in the west. Argan oil remains one of the rarest oils in the world due the small and very specific growing areas.
Argan trees were first reported by the explorer Leo Africanus in 1510. An early specimen was taken to Amsterdam where it was cultivated by Lady Beaufort at Badminton House in 1711.
The production of argan oil by traditional methodsFor modern times, the Berbers (indigenous people of Morocco) of this area would collect undigested argan pits from the waste of goats which climb the trees to eat their fruit. The pits were then ground and pressed to make the nutty oil used in cooking and cosmetics. However, the oil used in cosmetic and culinary products available for sale today has most likely been harvested and processed with machines in a verifiably clean and sanitary way.
The oil was sold in Moroccan markets even before the Phoenicians arrived, yet the hardy argan tree has been slowly disappearing. Overgrazing by goats and a growing, wood-hungry local population have whittled the number of surviving trees down to less than half of what it was 50 years ago.
The tree is a relic of the Earth's Tertiary Period, which ended about 1.6 million years ago, and it grows in only a few other places in the world. It is tenacious, withering and fruitless during extended droughts, and it lives as long as 200 years. So there was alarm that the Argania spinosa, as the tree is properly called, was headed for extinction, along with its precious goat-related oil.
UNESCO, and enthusiasts excited by the oil's reputed anti-aging qualities have helped by creating a global market for the exotic oil, the unlikely alliance hopes to raise awareness about the inherent value of the trees, encouraging more careful grazing and stopping the local population from chopping the trees down for firewood. The people in the area are poor; as they now understand the value of the tree, they are protecting it.
UNESCO declared a 25,900-square-kilometer of land between the Atlantic and the Atlas Mountains a reserve and provided money to manage the trees' preservation. Chefs and society matrons took up the cause, praising the culinary qualities of the oil and its anti-aging effect on the skin. There is also a ban against grazing in the trees from May to August, when the fruit ripens to a bright yellow and eventually the goats climb the trees, eat the fruit and expel the pits, which locals continue to collect.
At the Cooperative in Tiout, Berber women sit on the floor with rough rectangular stones between their knees cracking pits with rounded rocks. Each smooth pit contains one to three kernels, which look like sliced almonds and are rich in oil. The kernels are then removed and gently roasted. This roasting accounts for part of the oil's distinctive, nutty flavour. It takes several days and about 32 kilograms of fruit - roughly one season's produce from a single tree - to make only one liter of oil. The cosmetic oil, rich in vitamin E and essential fatty acids, is used for massage, facials and as an ingredient in anti-aging cream. The edible oil is extracted from roasted kernels.
Most of the oil is bottled pure for cooking, as a dressing on salads, meat or fish or simply as a dip for bread. The Tiout cooperative produces about 5,000 250-milliliter bottles of the edible oil a year. The oil can be purchased at the Cooperative in Tiout but the neighbouring city of Agadir sells the oil for a fair price as well.
Amlou (Almond, Argan oil dip)
Amlou is a Moroccan dip made of roasted almonds, argan oil, and sometimes honey or sugar. Amlou is usually served for breakfast along with whole wheat bread and tea.
Amlou is popular amongst the Berbers, native to the region of Morocco which produces argan oil, and has been adopted by some surrounding cultures as well. Amlou can be difficult to obtain outside of Morocco. Amlou was traditionally kept in the bedroom of those who could afford it as it was considered an aphrodisiac.
It was also a typical wedding gift for the new couple.
1 cup toasted almonds (I use large organic almonds)
1/2 cup plus 2tablespoons Argan oil
3 tablespoons good quality honey
pinch of salt
Preheat your oven to 360*.
Place your almonds in a baking pan and roast for approximately 15 minutes or until throughly golden in color (make sure the inside of the almonds is golden). You may want to give your almonds a toss every 4 minutes to prevent them from burning. Not all almonds are the same, some have more oil than others. I used large organic almonds in this recipe. After the almonds have been roasted allow them to cool for 5 minutes, or until warm to the touch. Place your warm almonds in a food processor until a buttery mixture is formed. Add half of your oil, honey, and salt to your almond mix (still in the food processor) and mix to combine. Stir in the remainder of your oil. If you want bits of almonds in your dip, place 2 tablespoons of completely cooled almonds in your food processor and mix until a coarse mix forms. Mix in with your dip.