What’s more Moroccan than tagine? I do not know!
Traditionally tagine (the dish) is prepared in a tagine (the crock pot). Before the use of electricity and gas became mainstream, it was mostly cooked over charcoal/wood. Today in Morocco, many people still use the tagine crock pot but they cook on the stove instead, there are even electric nonstick fancy tagines made in China.
At home, my partner and I cook in batches, we cook in a standard 5L stainless steel pot. We don’t actually own a tagine pot. Cooking in steel or clay pots, and over a stove or charcoal does change quite a few things, like textures, cooking temperatures, etc. Overall it’s about the same end result.
So here is my invitation. If you go to Morocco, do look for a place that will make you an oil-free and salt-free vegan tagine dish, in a real tagine crock pot (easy), and cooked over charcoal and wood (less common), it’s quite a unique charm. You can even do this at home if you buy a pot and set a fire. If you care to go to that extent, by all means do it, you won’t regret it! Food-wise, that will be the most authentic experience!
Meanwhile what I propose here is an experience of one tagine that is easy to make in the modern kitchen, with a just a standard “large” 5L pot, or even scale up to make in larger amounts.
Also, I say “one” tagine recipe because there are many kinds of tagine. They cover various tastes. Also, traditionally, many are centered on animal meat and fish, unfortunately.
My vegan implementation here is sweet and savoury. I borrowed the prunes and cinnamon from the sweet (often meat-based) tagines, and invited those flavours and textures in the more root-based tagines; those filled with potatoes, carrots, etc.
Also, in terms of whole foods, to stay clear of salt, I replaced preserved lemons by fresh lemons peels. I also completely ditched the commonly used olives that Moroccans love so much. In passing, if salt-free olives (not low-sodium) are something you have sorted out please post it here.
I am very satisfied with this tagine, my bread-and-potato-loving partner regularly begs for it, so I’m guessing it’s good. I like it too. But try for yourself and let me know what you think.
You will need to eat this with Moroccan bread. For that, I have a whole-grain and salt-free recipe which I’ll post and link up whenever I can. For now you can use my recipe for these particularly delicious whole-grain breads.
- 7 large carrots
- 7 medium potatoes (that may include some sweet potatoes)
- 3 large onions
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 2 lemons, organic or spray-free.
- 100g of dried chickpeas, soaked overnight
- 100g of dried prunes (the hard kind, common in Europe and North Africa) or 200g of "California" prunes more common in Anglo-Saxon countries. If you're using a lot of sweet potatoes, you can reduce the prunes amount, to balance sweetness.
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon (preferably Ceylon cinnamon and not Cassia, gentler on the stomach)
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- 1 tsp ground paprika
- ¼ (one forth) tsp ground cayenne chili (or to taste)
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- 100g almonds
- 100g raisins
- ¼ (one forth) cup sesame seeds
- Cut the onions in strings or rings, not diced.
- Cut the garlic the way you like to eat it (whole, sliced, finely chopped...)
- Water-fry the onions+garlic on medium heat (with no oil!) Just make sure to add water when it dries to prevent burning. This should take ~20 minutes cooking time. When they are brown add ~a cup of water (preferably hot) and the spices. Meanwhile:
- Peel the potatoes and the carrots, unless they're organic.
- Cut the potatoes (along the main length) into 4 or more large wedges . Set aside.
- Halve the carrots along the length, and again cut that in finger-sized bits. Set aside.
- Clean-cut the yellow part of the lemon peel with a knife. Set aside the cuts.
- Remember: When the onions are browned, add a cup of water, then the spices, and stir well.
- Add the cut potatoes first, then the lemon peels.
- If you use the rock-hard kind of dried prunes add them now.
- Add all the carrots, chickpeas, then everything else. California-style prunes are best added towards the end of cooking, because they are so soft and tend to decompose in cooking.
- Water amount: If cooking in a pot or deep slow-cooker, put just enough water to cover everything. If using a traditional tagine plate you may have to top with water as it's cooking so it will be good to check to make sure it doesn't dry out and burn.
- Cook for 1 hour to 1 hour 30 on medium heat for a standard pot. You know your tagine is ready when the potatoes and chickpeas are almost as soft as you like them.
- Meanwhile, oven-roast or pan roast the almonds and sesame seeds, stirring regularly to get even browning. I put them in an oven tray close to the grill at 120°C for ~20 min, then throw in the raisins just for 5~10 minutes. I can't give you precise timing for this, it depends on your oven, but it's easy: The sesame seeds should not be black and smoking but just gently browned/golden. The almonds should taste roasted but not get black or burned. The raisins should gently caramelize and become chewy/crunchy but not carbonize and get bitter/super-crunchy. This will need a bit of attention but it's completely worth it taste-wise!
- In a [/b]hollow or soup plate[/b], serve alternate potatoes and carrots, put the onions and chickpeas in the center on top, and the prunes around the plate topped by roasted almonds, one per prune.
- Finish by pouring some sauce.
- For decoration, put the rest of almonds and raisins on top, and sprinkle sesame seeds.
- Serve with Moroccan bread.
- Like with flat bread: Cut a piece of bread, pinch on a bit a bit of this and that, and eat!
Or...just dump everything in the slow-cooker, and skip the roasted toppings.
It's not quite as good but it works too. Just make sure to stack things in a way when the hardest foods than need the most cooking are at the bottom and the softer less cooking-demanding ingredients on top.