When you think of Moroccan cuisine, tagines spring to mind. These slow-cooked dishes are iconic and can be found in limitless varieties in every restaurant and people's homes. There are meat-laden heavy tagines but healthier cooking has also brought forward spectacular vegetarian versions that shine in their own glory.
Historians have a couple of theories on the origins of tagine. The first is that its origin dates back to the late 18th century when Harun al Rashid ruled the Islamic Empire. However, there is another school of thought that the use of ceramics in Moroccan cooking is probably of Roman influence since the Romans were known for their ceramics. Either way, the first appearance of recipes cooked tagine-style appeared in the 9th century in the publication The Thousand and One Nights.
Tagines are perfectly designed for earthen pot cooking. They are round and shallow at the bottom which allows for the heat from the fire to be evenly distributed, and the conical tall top keeps in the steam and concentrates the flavours. Tagine and all clay-pot cooking is an ancient art form that has had centuries to perfect itself, They are almost always used for slow-cooked and braised stews, but occasionally I have seen fire reddened clay pots used for fast cooking and searing of dry meats.
This tagine, in particular, is all about subtle flavours. The stew is mildly sweet and scented with saffron and mild spices. The baby carrots are glazed in the sauce and pair beautifully with the stew. The topping of honey-glazed pine nuts adds a burst of sweetness that is addictive. The stew is best stopped up with bread, sourdough, pita or other.
I have been slowly collecting the books of Greg and Lucy Malouf over the last few years. This is a newer and more contemporary cookbook of flavours from the Arabian Peninsula. The Maloufs have used their deep knowledge and expertise to give the recipes a new spin or new look, but the flavours stay true to their core. The dishes are always fantastic and a hit on any table. This is a cookbook that is a wonderful addition to any chef's bookshelf.
For more recipes from this cookbook, click here.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large carrot
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin seeds
1 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon pepper
1/2 tablespoon honey
3-4 small carrots, cut into 1-inch lengths
1/4 cup cilantro, minced
4 cups water or stock
8-10 baby carrots, left whole or halved, with the stem attached
1/2 cup yoghurt
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon cornstarch
For the chickpeas:
1/4 cup chickpeas, soaked in 3 cups water overnight
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 small bay leaf
1 garlic clove, minced
3 cups water
Substitute 1/2 can ready chickpeas
For the pine nuts:
3 tablespoons pine nuts
1 teaspoon oil
2 teaspoons honey
Start by cooking the chickpeas: Drain the chickpeas and add them to a small pot with all the other ingredients. Bring to a boil and scoop off the scum. Simmer gently for 25-30 minutes until the chickpeas are cooked, but maintain a bite. Take off the stove and save both the stock and cooked chickpeas.
Grate the onion and large carrot. You may also blitz them in a blender till quite smooth.
Heat the oil in a large pot or wok and add the grated onions and carrots and cook on medium-low for about 10-12 minutes till the onions are very soft. Do not let the onions take on any colour.
Add the garlic, cumin, coriander, turmeric, and honey and cook for an additional 3-4 minutes stirring the mix continually so that the spices do not burn. Add the carrots, cilantro and water/stock and simmer for 10 minutes. You want the carrots just cooked but not too mushy.
Add the baby carrots and cooked chickpeas and simmer for an additional 3 minutes.
In a separate bowl whisk the yoghurt, egg yolk and cornflour till very smooth. Add a tablespoon of the hot stock from the stew and whisk in. Repeat two more times till the bowl is warm. Slowly stream the egg yolk mix into the stew while stirring the stew continually. After this point, you should be continually stirring the stew without a break so it does not split. NEVER bring the stew to boil, it will separate and you will have to discard the dish. heat on a very low flame for 2-3 minutes till the yolk is cooked and the stew thickens a bit. Turn off the heat and set aside. You can prep the stew to this point ahead of time. To heat the stew to serve, be careful not to bring it to a bubbling boil and stir continually.
Heat the oil and honest for the pine nuts in a small frying pan. Add the pine nuts and coat well with the honey. The honey will begin to bubble and the nuts will turn a light golden after 1 minute. Make the pine nuts just before serving, they tend to clump up if made ahead.
Add the hot stew to a bowl and top with the nuts. Make sure to display the baby carrots on top. Serve immediately.