I wanted a vegetable dish to go with my Moroccan lamb this Sunday. I just put Miriam on a plane for Milan, Italy, on Friday and I pick up her husband, Chris, who is just getting back from NY on Saturday. Chris is on the Adkin’s diet, so this dish must fit his needs—out go the starchy vegetables, fruit and flour as a thickener.
I took my last recipe for a vegetables tajine and took out anything that did not fit his diet. I then looked for items on the “acceptable vegetables list” to replace the things I had removed. He has started “Phase Two,” which means I can at least add a few garbanzo beans. I also had the idea of replacing the flour thickener with a low-carb ground lentils.
Having to throw out carrots and apricots, I searched the list for other likely vegetables. I decided that that artichoke hearts and celery sturdy vegetables that could “bulk up” the recipe. Bell pepper, tomatoes, and olives would add a splash of color to the dish. I have a zucchini, but these tender squash, do not do well in a tajine—they turn to mush.
Note: I decided to grill the zucchini separately with some spice.
I still do not own a tajine. I have yet to fine one that meets my standards: in size, functionality and price. I am looking for a large tajine—one designed for a two person meal is simply not enough. I use a Römertopf clay pot that has many of the same cooking properties of a tajine.
Rhetorical Question: If you do not make a recipe in a tajine, can you still call it a tajine?
As I was doing further research on what Moroccan’s use in their vegetable tajines. I found that I was making my tajines “wrong.” Amanda is an American expat living in Marrakech, surrounded by other people’s mothers who cook. This gives her an advantage over even their own daughters, who grew up just knowing that “that is the way you make that.” As she learned to “cook Moroccan,” she watched the mothers cook and she had to look at it with “adult eyes.” What exactly are they doing? In what order are they doing it? And—most importantly— why?
She shares her insights on her blog Marocmama. It was clear to me—from her words and pictures—that Moroccan tajines are not made, they are arranged. This is something that would be so obvious to native cooks that they would never think to mention it.
Things that take the most heat to cook are laid on the bottom of the tajine. Things that take a bit less time are mounded on top. Colorful quick cooking vegetables are artistically laid out on top. Finally, small bits—like olives—are scattered around the base of the mound of meat and/or vegetables.
Once you start cooking, you do not “stir the pot” or “lift the lid”—unless you fear it has dried out. You cook the tajine over a low heat—until it is done (about 50 minutes to an hour). When you lift the tajine’s lid at the table, you have a burst of fragrant steam and a beautiful mound of food displayed for your dinners.
Karl’s Vegetable Tajine (Tagine)
¾ cup dried garbanzo beans (chickpeas), soaked, boiled and drained
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 red onions, coarsely chopped
½ tsp. Kosher salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. cumin
½ tsp. coriander seeds
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. allspice
1 tsp. Piri-piri
½ tsp. black pepper
1 Tbs. green lentils
¼ cup chicken broth, vegetable broth or water
10 artichoke caps
2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
1 beef steak tomato, sliced into rings
1 cup green bell pepper, sliced into rings
⅓ cup Kalamata olives, pitted
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
2 Tbs. Italian parsley, chopped
2 Tbs. fresh mint, chopped
1. Soak the garbanzo beans overnight and in the morning put them in a medium pan with three cups of water.
Tip: You may add a pinch of salt, if you wish.
Note: If you wish to skip these steps, use canned garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed.
2. Bring the pot to a boil, reduce the heat, and cover. Simmer for one hour.
3. Drain and cool the beans. Reserve for later.
4. Toast the cumin and coriander seeds until fragrant and grind them to a powder. Reserve until later.
5. On the stovetop, add the oil to your pot and sauté the onions with the salt until just starting to pick up some color.
Note: A real tajine is designed to work on the stove top or in the oven. You can use it like a skillet on the stove and then continue simmering on the burner. I am using a Römertopf clay pot. I have to soak the clay pot and sauté the onions and spices in a separate pan. Once all of the ingredients are mixed in the clay pot, you put it into a cold oven and set the temperature to 500º F.
7. Add the garlic and continue sautéing for one minute, until fragrant.
8. Stir the cumin, coriander, paprika, cinnamon, allspice, piri-piri and black pepper into the onions.
9. Mix the ground lentils with the liquid and pour it into the bottom of the tajine.
10. This will thicken the sauce as the vegetables release their moisture.
11. Arrange the artichokes in a pile in the tajine.
12. Stack the celery on top of the artichokes.
13. Lay the tomato rings over the celery and the bell pepper rings over the tomatoes.
Tip: You want the vegetables to form a decorative mound, that does not tough the lid of the tajine when you put it on.
14. Scatter the garbanzo beans around the base of the vegetables mound and scatter the olives over the beans.
15. Pour the onion mixture evenly over the vegetables.
16. Bring the tajine to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 40-60 minutes.
Note: If you are short on stove area, you may also place the tajine in a 350º F oven and bake it. With the clay pot, I put the pot in a cold oven, set the temperature to 500º F and bake it for 20 minutes. I then reduce the heat to 350º F and bake for an additional 20-30 minutes.
17. Sprinkle the lemon juice and most of the parsley and mint, recover. Simmer, or bake, for five more minutes.
Tip: Reserve a bit of the parsley and mint as garnish.
18. Garnish with the remaining parsley and mint and serve over couscous.