Les Borjs de la Kasbah, one of the best character hotels in Marrakech, has compiled the best recipes for Tagine, the quintessentially Moroccan dish.
Bursting with aromatic spices and flavour, a meat tagine is an exotically spiced, slow cooked casserole, as tender as you can get, its simplicity producing perfect results every time. BK’s popular courses in Moroccan cuisine can help you to become a Marrakech masterchef!
We don’t know how much experience of Marrakech Essex boy Jamie Oliver has, but he can rustle up a mean beef Tagine. He describes a Tagine as a “stew with attitude”, this one certainly is. Jamie’s easy steps will ensure you can produce something really special too.
600g stewing beef, olive oil, 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped, a small bunch of fresh coriander, 1 x 400g tin of chickpeas, drained, 1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes, 800ml vegetable stock preferably organic, 1 small squash (approximately 800g) deseeded and cut into 5cm chunks, 100g prunes, stoned and roughly torn 2 tablespoons flaked almonds, toasted.
For the spice rub sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, 1 level tablespoon ras el hanout spice mix (blend of the best spices a vendor has in his shop - nutmeg, cinnamon, mace, aniseed, turmeric, cayenne, peppercorns, dried galangal, ginger, cloves, cardamom, chilli, allspice and orris root), 1 level tablespoon ground cumin, 1 level tablespoon ground cinnamon, 1 level tablespoon ground ginger, 1 level tablespoon sweet paprika.
Mix all the spice rub ingredients together in a small bowl. Put the beef into a large bowl, massage it with the spice rub, then cover with clingfilm and put into the fridge for a couple of hours – ideally overnight. That way the spices really penetrate and flavour the meat.
When you’re ready to cook, heat a generous lug of olive oil in a tagine or casserole– type pan and fry the meat over a medium heat for 5 minutes. Add your chopped onion and coriander stalks and fry for another 5 minutes. Tip in the chickpeas and tomatoes, then pour in 400ml of stock and stir. Bring to the boil, then put the lid on the pan or cover with foil and reduce to a simmer for 1½hours.
At this point add your squash, the prunes and the rest of the stock. Give everything a gentle stir, then pop the lid back on the pan and continue cooking for another 1½hours. Keep an eye on it and add a splash of water if it looks too dry.
Once the time is up, take the lid off and check the consistency. If it seems a bit too runny, simmer for 5 to 10 minutes more with the lid off. The beef should be really tender and flaking apart now, so have a taste and season with a pinch or two of salt. Scatter the coriander leaves over the tagine along with the toasted almonds, then take it straight to the table with a big bowl of lightly seasoned couscous and dive in”
Tagines get the best out of meat and the slow cook method means that even the cheapest cuts are ideal - great news in our tough times! However, a vegetarian Tagine also works superbly well. We’re sure you’ll agree that a Tagine aux Sept Legumes with couscous and toasted almonds is no less of a treat than the meaty versions.
2 tsp each of ground cumin and ground coriander, 2 onions thinly sliced, 2 garlic cloves finely sliced, 3 tbsp harissa (look in the spice section), 1 small butternut squash peeled and cut into chunks, 4 carrots cut into chunks, vegetable stock made up to 600ml, 75g ready-to-eat dried apricots roughly chopped, 400g tin chickpeas drained and rinsed, a bunch flat-leaf parsley roughly chopped, a bunch coriander roughly chopped.
Heat 2 tbsp oil in a tagine or casserole and gently cook the onion until soft – about 10 minutes. Add the ground spices and garlic and cook for a minute. Stir in the harissa and cook for 2 minutes. Stir through the squash and carrots and toss well to coat with the paste and the onion. Pour over the stock, add the apricots and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook over a low heat for about 25-30 minutes until the vegetables are very tender.
Meanwhile, put the couscous in a large bowl, bring the stock to the boil and pour it over. Cover the bowl and leave to stand for 5-10 minutes until all the stock has been absorbed into the couscous. Gently fluff up with a fork and stir through the toasted almonds.
Add the chickpeas to the tagine and stir through half of the herbs. Season, then simmer for 5 minutes. Spoon the couscous into bowls then ladle the tagine on top. Serve scattered with extra herbs”
We mentioned that tagines are ideal for cooking cheap cuts of meat, lamb especially. Using neck, shoulder or shank results can be exquisitely tasty. This Lamb shank Tagine recipe is a delight.
1 tbs olive oil, 2 brown onions, coarsely chopped, 2 garlic cloves, crushed, 1 tbs ground ginger, 2 tsp ground cumin, 2 tsp sweet paprika, 4 lamb shanks, 4 cups (1L) beef stock, 400g can chopped tomatoes, 1/2 cup (80g) pitted kalamata olives, 150g fresh dates, Couscous, to serve, Preserved lemons, to serve.
Preheat oven to 150°C. Heat the oil in a large flameproof casserole dish over high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until onion is soft. Add the ginger, cumin and paprika and cook for 1 minute or until aromatic. Add the lamb, beef stock and tomatoes and bring to the boil. Remove from heat.
Cover and bake for 2 hours or until lamb is very tender and falling off the bone. Add the olives and dates and set aside, covered, for 5 minutes or until heated through.
Prepare couscous according to packet instructions. Serve tagine with couscous and preserved lemons”
Inspired by the delicious tagine recipes above you may wish to sample a few of our dishes at Les Borjs de la Kasbah or, indeed, be tempted to create a few of your own with the guidance of our own chefs. It’ll be an experience to savour.