I’ve used the word simple in the title of this post because the food that I would like to share with you here is so easy to prepare and yet so unbelievably delicious. Herbs and spices mingle together with meats and vegetables to form a thick stew to which few others compare. The long slow-cooking and natural smoky wood flavours that are imparted into the North African clay cooking vessel I used here make for a dish that is incredibly moist, succulent and very flavourful. The Fornetto was perfect for achieving this with my tajine!
The Tajine, also spelled Tagine, is a traditional Berber meal cooked in an earthenware dish, also known as a tajine, found in most of Northern Africa. Moroccan tajines, like the one I’d like to share with you here are long, slow-cooked stews often with sweet, sour and spicy flavours mixing together as if by magic. I use the word magic because once the lid goes on and the tajine hits the heat, it isn’t opened or stirred at all until it’s served!
As Berbers are a nomadic tribe indigenous to the North of Africa, the tajine not only serves as the cooking vessel but doubles as the serving dish. As cutlery isn’t normally used, flatbread is always served and is what is used to scoop up the stew. A tajine is traditionally made of natural clay and may be glazed or not. It is comprised of a shallow dish with low sides that’s used to hold the stew and a conical or domed cover designed to return much of the condensation created on the wall of the lid back to the stew while cooking. This is of great importance in places where water is at a premium, such as in the Berbers’ native Sahara desert. Though they can be used in a slow-oven or over gas or electric burners with the use of a heat diffuser, tajines are meant to sit above coals and therefore become infused with smoky flavour, making the Fornetto the perfect option for tajine cooking. Here are some simple steps to follow:
The cuisine of Morocco boasts a large variety of flavours such as cumin, coriander, ginger, garlic, saffron, cinnamon and cloves. These all mix perfectly and complement meat, such as lamb and beef as well as poultry and seafood. Robust vegetables, most notably potatoes, carrots, pumpkin, zucchini, squash, beans and peas come to tender perfection with the slow cooking in the tajine, not to mention how meat literally falls off the bone. Olives and dried fruit such as raisins, dates and prunes also mingle well with the robust flavours a tajine has to offer. Harisa, a common and very spicy condiment, spices up any stew while couscous, a simple buttered pasta, helps soak up the juice and cleanses the palate.
As I’ve mentionned, flatbread (click HERE for our Fornetto flat-bread recipe) is used instead of cutlery and is a huge hit with kids. There’s something to be said about sitting around a large stew with everyone sharing from the same dish; it tends to bring everyone closer together, children and adults alike. I’m doubtful that it was the original intention however, eating from a common dish continues to maintain the family meal time in Morocco, a custom going back centuries.
Warm and cold salads are also very popular in Morocco and often precede the main course. Zaalouk, an eggplant and tomato mixture and Taktouka, a green pepper, tomato, garlic and mixed-spice salad are both very popular examples however, I’ve decided to share one of my favourites from Levantine cuisine…….the very popular Tabouleh, a fresh mix of parsley, tomato, lemon and cracked bulgur wheat; a great accompaniment to any tajine.