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Tajine - Marrakech's Signature Dish

Morocco typical dish - meat and vegetable in tajineMorocco delights all five senses!  The cry of the muezzin; that very particular blue which is found only in the elegant native dress; the silky weave of a hand-knotted carpet from Essaouira; and, of course, the pungent sweet, sour, and spicy smell and taste of Morocco’s signature dish: the Tajine.  Named for the conical ceramic pot in which it is cooked, Tajine is a uniquely North African stew of meat and vegetables accented with local fresh and dried fruit and spices, which is cooked “low and slow” on top of a charcoal fire.  It is a must-try dish for visitors to the region, and the pots make a lovely, if somewhat fragile, souvenir to bring home.

Tajine owes much to the Arabs who invaded Morocco in the 7th century, bringing with them the spices and dried fruits of their culinary cannon as well as their Islamic dietary laws which prohibit the consumption of pork and shellfish.  As a result, traditional Tajine is usually lamb or poultry-based, although some Tajines use eggs or boned fish as their base.  The stew is cooked in a shallow ceramic pot with the signature conical top, which not only provides an excellent seal, it facilitates the reincorporation of moisture back into the dish - a practical method in a climate where fresh water is always at a premium.  Souvenir Tajine are glazed with bright colors but purists claim that only the unglazed ceramic pots imbue Tajine with its essential earthy flavor.

Tajine has spread from Morocco across the rim of Northern Africa to neighboring Libya, Tunis, and Nigeria, but the best Tajine is still to be found in the four royal cities of Morocco: Rabat, Marrakech, Meknes, and Fes, where each nationality that held sway over the region has left its contribution: wine from the French, olives from the Jews, and spices and dried fruits from the Muslims: layer upon layer of ingredients, spice pairings, and sweet and sour combinations mean that you cannot nail down just one Tajine recipe, but rather you have to bring your own preferences to the brazier. 

The essential formula for Tajine, however, is still straightforward: combine meat (beef, lamb, chicken) with some form of sweet fresh fruit, such as preserved lemons, tomatoes, plums or oranges, and the intense flavor of dried apricots or dates.  Add in a few aromatics: garlic, onion, and celery, the fresh vegetables such as squash or carrots, then season liberally with the spices of the region: cinnamon, coriander, cumin, and hot peppers.  Add a splash of Moroccan Vin Gris or plain white wine, and cook low and slow in a traditional Tajine pot or a modern slow cooker until the meat is falling off the bones.  Enjoy over rice or couscous. 

Alexander + Roberts serves up itineraries to suit every palate in Morocco including the The Magic of Morocco small group adventure.

Posted: 9/3/2015 3:15:54 PM by Alexander + Roberts