How (not) to cook Moroccan Tangine

This week I performed a minor miracle and cooked.



In February I was in Morocco, where in a moment of extreme optimism about my cooking abilities I bought a mix of spices from one of the many places selling them.  These spices were, I was assured, ‘the seven secret ingredients of Moroccan cooking’.

After around three minutes research via Google, I am around 95 percent confident that if you analyzed my ‘seven secret spices’ you would find Salt, Pepper, Ginger, Turmeric, Saffron, Paprika and Cumin.

I stayed in the Medina itself (the walled city) in Marrakesh.  Every restaurant within the city walls had virtually the same menu.  There was cous-cous, with lamb, with beef, with chicken or with vegetables (I won’t say ‘vegetarian’, even though they did, because I’m not convinced it was strictly veggie) or else there was Tangine with lamb, with beef, with chicken or ‘vegetarian’.

Shopping for fruits and spices in Marrakesh

Shopping for fruits and spices in Marrakesh

A Tangine is a kind of big oven pot with a domed airtight lid (they were selling these all over town too.  I didn’t buy because I have so many pots already.  However I was tempted, thinking how great it would look cluttering up my minuscule kitchen even further, standing next to the vegetable steamer, the pestle and mortar, the rolling-pin and other assorted kitchen equipment that I never use).

The domed lid is apparently important because it encourages condensation and allows you to use less water.  My oven pot didn’t have a domed lid, so I was doing it wrong already. IMG_2795 Traditionally the Tangine would be cooked in an open fire over coals, however I didn’t think that lighting a fire in the middle of my inner-city flat was such a good idea, so I used an electric oven.  A slow cooker if you own one would probably replicate the traditional method more closely.

My version of Lamb Tangine

My version of Lamb Tangine

My lamb Tangine turned out so-so.  I think the use of a slow cooker or an electric Tangine pot might have helped.  Really it’s not the kind of thing to do in an electric oven; it cooked more quickly than I intended and I had to add extra water, making it a lot ‘runnier’ than the Tangines I sampled in Morocco

. . . . . . . . . .

Anyway here is my method, made for a modern kitchen and for someone who doesn’t really like cooking: There is minimum preparation time involved (this is my kind of cooking), and washing up level isn’t too bad (ditto).  However it is a little expensive because of the relatively long cooking time.

Just waiting for its '7 secret spices'

Just waiting for its ‘7 secret spices’

I used lamb because it was on special offer at Asda.  I also added carrots because I had some hiding away in the back of the fridge. I sautéed leeks (again because I had them) with some garlic, lay the lamb on top added some water and my ‘seven secret spices’ , added some black olives and some dried apricots and put it all at the bottom of the oven on a low-ish heat.


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Categories: Morocco

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5 replies »

  1. I adore Moroccan food. I’d love a tagine pot but they are expensive to buy in the UK and when I did finally go to Morocco a few years ago, there was no space in my suitcase to bring one back. Now that we are living closer to Morocco, I’m hoping I can pick one up on my next visit. I’ll let you know if the dome really does make a difference!

    • Yes I think this is a case where having the right equipment does help, although I could be making excuses for being crap.
      I didn’t buy one for much the same reason; I didn’t want to carry it and also I didn’t want something else cluttering up my kitchen that I never use.

      • I’m sure you’re not crap – and I’m sure that for both of us, having the right kit would help. There used to be a fabulous Moroccan restaurant in Finsbury Park and I’d watch fascinated as they cooked the tagines on a gas top. I was sure that the pots would explode or crack with the heat but they didn’t. I think it’s that combo of heat underneath and the steam inside the dome that gives it the flavour and texture.

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