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Saturday, 20 July 2013

The Mystery of Moroccan Tagines - My favourite lamb & aubergine Tagine recipe

Morocco is beautiful, come back tomorrow and find out
how Ramadan is celebrated in Morocco
Like Morocco, a Tagine promises mystery in the shape of a round and edged earthenware plate always topped with a conical lid that once removed can no longer contain the escaping whiffs of highly aromatic steam making their escape in almost a whisper hinting complexity of flavour in a story of marriage between sweet and savoury that could only mature under the repeated on and off showers of cooled steam once rising above all the rest of the ingredients only to return when it has cooled in solitude to rediscover and reignite its own love affair with those ingredients. Like Morocco, Tagine is a decadence that comes in stages, one that you can never fully understand in terms of complexity until you have experienced it again and again, and like Morocco, a Tagine is eternal.

Spice Market in Marrakech, Morocco
Photo by Smithsonian Journeys
In English
Tagine is a concoction that is famous for delivering the most complex flavours, tender meats and vegetables, in a fine balance between savoury and sweet. It is the kind of food that charms all those who experience it; traits that have allowed it to travel near and far, always affirming its own character.

Technically a Tagine is a type of food that contains a mixture of ingredients, vegetables, fruits, nuts, meats, olives, pickles.... which are aromatised by spices and herbs and are either all used in the same dish or in countless combinations. A Tagine is cooked in a Tagine pot, which is typically a wide, round and shallow earthenware plate with a characteristically conical lid. This pot was made this way to allow the steam building from cooking the ingredients to rise inside the conical lid, some of which is absorbed by the non-glazed walls of the lid, and the rest cooling and condensing to drop back over the ingredients, which moistens them and creates its famous tender quality. The cycle is then repeated until the Tagine is cooked through.

Because it is made out of earthenware, the heat is retained inside the Tagine pot and therefore it is more or less like an oven containing the food. This is especially unique for Tagines as in that pot the food is both steamed and baked and consequently very tender.

The Tagine Pot produces simultaneously steamed and baked food = Ultra tender food

While the pot promotes the perfect cooking conditions, the ingredients of Morocco allow the best of flavours to develop. The Moroccan produce is known to be of excellent quality. Together with secret spice mix recipes, and the use of aromatics by the Moroccan people, who are evidently food artists with a fine understanding of flavour combinations, all of which combined produce delicious dishes.

If you are after preparing the perfect Tagine then you must get your hands on a proper Tagine pot, the food is absolutely 100% better when cooked in a Tagine pot. However, you can still use a regular cooking pot for carrying out a Tagine recipe, and while it will definitely work and taste excellent you won't get the full effect : Perfection. This recipe below is my favourite lamb and aubergine Tagine recipe. I cook it very often as my family love it, and I have many a times served it for guests who also loved it and went home with the recipe. So I thought to share it here with you so you too can please your family and guests this Ramadan.

Here is how its made....


Tagine of Lamb & Aubergine in Tomato Sauce
Serves 4

For a healthier version of this Tagine, you can grill the eggplants instead of frying them. Simply brush the sliced aubergines with oil and grill them until golden brown. You can also, go for lean lamb meat, with all visible fat trimmed off. 
Making Tomato Sauce is always best
using fresh tomatoes, skinned and deseeded

You Need
625g aubergines, sliced into 1.5 cm thick rounds
500g boned lamb, shoulder or leg, cut into 4-8 equally sized pieces
1 Kg tomatoes, peeled, seeded and roughly chopped
150 ml water, (might require a little extra)
2 tbsp olive oil 2 garlic cloves, finely crushed
1 tsp paprika A pinch of saffron threads
½ tsp turmeric ¾ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground ginger ½ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp sugar 1 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
1 tbsp coriander, finely chopped 1 tbsp lemon juice
Salt to taste

Slice the aubergines and salt them all over. Place these in a sieve over a bowl and leave to drain for 1-2 hours. This will get rid of any bitterness in the eggplants.

Meanwhile, rub the lamb with ½ tsp salt and place in a medium pan, leave for 5 minutes. Add 1 tbsp of olive oil to the meat, and place the pan over medium heat and stir for about 1 minute. Add the saffron, ginger, and ground coriander and stir well to coat. Add 50 ml of water and stir scraping the bottom. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 1 hour or until the meat is very tender. (Check the water level frequently, you may have to add 3-4 tbsp of hot water throughout)

In the meantime, place ½ tbsp olive oil in the frying pan together with the crushed garlic, cook stirring over medium heat until the garlic is translucent but not browned. Add the chopped tomatoes, and stir to incorporate with the oil and garlic. Simmer, stirring for 2 minutes. Add the paprika, stir to incorporate, continue simmering, while occasionally stirring, until almost all the liquid has evaporated. Stir in the turmeric, cumin, ½ tbsp olive oil, chopped parsley, chopped coriander, and sugar, mix well. Leave to simmer, until the mixture reaches a thick consistency.

For a healthier option, roast the aubergine instead of frying

Thoroughly rinse the salted aubergines, gently squeeze out the excess water and dry the slices between kitchen towels. Heat some oil (shallow) in a frying pan, until hot but not smoking. Fry the aubergine on both sides until golden brown. Remove from oil, and drain over several folds of kitchen towels. Leave to cool to room temperature. Drizzle the fried aubergines with lemon juice, and mash slightly with a fork to incorporate the juice.

Place the slightly mashed aubergines on the meat, top with the tomato mixture, cover and simmer for 10 minutes for all the flavours to marry. Shake the pan often, but do not stir.

Serve immediately with bread (traditional choice) or a side of couscous.

Find some more Moroccan Recipes on this blog
Hareera Soup Recipe here
Tagine of Lamb & Prunes Recipe here
Chicken and Olives Tagine Recipe here


Food For Thought
Ignorance might have been bliss, it might have even been excusable, but in this day and age that is no longer the case. All information is out there. Make sure you are always well informed.

Thank you for dropping by again, hope you have enjoyed today's post. I always love to hear from you so leave a comment before you go. While you are at it, why not tell me which is your favourite Tagine recipe? Are you one for savoury and sweet tagines that contain fruits? Or do you prefer only savoury like the tagine above?

Drop by again tomorrow for 
Ramadan in Morocco :) 

The world is beautiful, all its people are beautiful, all cultures equally important, and all the same in the end - all out there for us to explore...
Ramadan Kareem