Berkoukech is a traditional North African product made of semolina durum wheat. It consists of large grains (3 mm diameter compared to the 1mm of traditional couscous) that are hand-rolled in a large wooden or clay dish called a gasâa. It may also be made mixing in regular flour with the semonlina durum wheat. The flavor of the berkoukech à la rubia (berkoukech with rubia) is the same as plain berkoukech, but the presence of rubia (Rubia tinctorum) , a wild plant, gives the dish a medicinal quality that helps in treating problems of anemia.
Due to the presence of the rubia plant, this berkoukech is dark red. Rubia is a plant genus native to the Mediterranean region. The most widespread species of it is called “madder,” and is a plant with stiff leaves. A climbing plant, it is abundant in mountainous areas. The leaves are long and thin, and the stem is sticky. It has been long cultivated for its medicinal qualities. Its roots have a reddish color and carry particularly interesting medicinal herbal properties. Rubia is harvested in summer. Once well washed, the central part is removed and dried in the sun. Once dry, it is ground in a mortar of wood or copper. The red powder is added to the Berkoukech, and then finally it is dried in the shade.
Berkoukech is typically boiled and prepared in a soup with milk, salt and olive oil. The plain berkoukech is also used to prepare harira, a Moroccan soup traditionally prepared for Ramadan and for festive occasions. The Berkoukech with rubia is traditionally used to treat anemia problems.
Today, production is handmade only to order in the rural town of Tamaguert Kiadat in Marrakech, Morocco by a female-run agricultural cooperative called Amashighrem. This organization is the only group actively producing berkoukech with rubia. This product has been gradually disappearing with the rise in the use of dried pasta over fresh pastas, which take longer to prepare by hand.