Hailing from a small town on the Moroccan/Algerian border, and forced into an arranged marriage at a young age, Fatéma Hal came to France and led the life of a housewife for six years before leaving her husband, battling for the custody of her three children, and fighting to make a living for herself and her family.
She worked for the French government advising on women’s rights before opening Le Mansouria, the first restaurant in France to elevate Moroccan cuisine to a gastronomic level. Tucked behind the Bastille square, the restaurant made Hal a culinary hero in both her native Morocco and her adoptive France, celebrated for her revival of traditional dishes. “Cooking is culture,” she says, “I have created nothing. I simply transmit the knowledge of those who came before me, women who obtained their freedom through cooking.”
Hal’s home fridge is a mix of ever-present staples such as organic honeys, store bought pickles and sweet peppers, mingled with more exotic products such as absinthe leaves (she loves their tea in winter), North African figs, fresh herbs (coriander and parsley), and Moroccan saffron from Taliouine. Sundays and Mondays are reserved for home dining, and the children and grandchildren come by on Sundays, for favorite dishes such as this delicious chicken tagine with figs and almonds.