Moroccan Tagines, Tajines, Moroccan Recipes
Moroccan cuisine is traced back to the first inhabitants of Morocco, the Berbers. Later influences include the Arabs, the Moors, the Ottoman Empire and then the French.
Spices are used in almost all savoury dishes, and the most commonly used are cumin, dried ginger, turmeric, salt and black pepper. Also used are paprika, cinnamon and saffron. Many recipes for tagines and couscous dishes will mention ras el hanout. This is a blend of spices and every Moroccan spice shop will have their own blend. We’ve seen as many as 27 spices advertised.
Fresh parsley and coriander are also commonly used in tajnes,couscous and salads. Mint is everywhere and it’s hard to go anywhere in Morocco without being offered a glass of sweet mint tea. Preserved lemons and olives frequently appear in Moroccan recipes. Olive trees are plentiful in Morocco and we never seem to get enough green olives preserved with coriander or parsley and preserved lemon when we’re visiting Morocco.
Olive oil is most often used when cooking in Morocco. In the south west, argan oil is produced. Argan oil has the wierdest means of extraction (which we won’t go into here). It’s expensive stuff and apart from being used in salads, it’s frequently used for skin products. Many hairdressing salons in Australia are now using Moroccan Oil, which contains argan oil, to control hair and provide a beautiful sheen without making your hair feel or look oily.
Dried fruit such as dates, prunes and figs as well as nuts are often used in tagines or in Moroccan desserts, while rose water and orange blossom water are often used in desserts.
Bread or khobz is served with every meal in Morocco. The khobz is round and fairly flat and it’s great for soaking up sauces in tagines. Many people these days, particularly in the bigger cities, buy their bread or bake it in their own oven, but it’s not uncommon to see women or children taking their uncooked bread on a big tray to be cooked at the bakers.
Common Moroccan dishes
Harira is a tasty soup, often served with dates on the side, that is made of lentils, tomatoes, chick peas and small noodles. We’re told that harira is used to break the fast at Ramadan, but in Morocco you’ll often see market stalls or little carts in the medina selling harira.
A tagine or tajine is a stew made in a clay pot with a conical lid which in Morocco is slow cooked over coals. The idea of the conical lid is that the steam rises during cooking, condenses and drips back down into the food. We don’t know what it is about the clay tagine, but food certainly tastes heaps better when it’s cooked in one. Probably the best known Moroccan tajines are chicken with preserved lemons and olives and lamb with prunes. We’ve included these recipes here, but you can make up your own recipes with meat and/or vegetables. If you’re using meat, we find the cheaper cuts work best, such as lamb forequarter, lamb neck or shanks. And tagines can be used on a gas cook top with a heat diffuser.
Couscous is a traditional Berber dish made from fine semolina and topped with vegetables and meat. Instant couscous can be bought here in supermarkets and is quick and simple to use, but it really doesn’t compare with couscous made the traditional way. The traditional method takes more time but it’s quite therapeutic and soothing to make.
Barbeques done kebab-style are common in Morocco – chicken, beef or lamb. One of the things we always do when we’re in Marrakech is to hop on a local bus just outside the medina and go to Rue Ibn Aicha in the nouvelle ville where there are a number of grill places. The food is cheap and good.
Moroccan food is wonderful. If you want to give it a try, there are many Moroccan cookbooks around, there are Moroccan cooking programs on TV and there are also a growing number of people running Moroccan cooking classes (see our Links page). We also provide sometagine recipes here for you to try. And in order to get you started, Metroscope stocks Moroccan cooking tagines, tanjias, heat diffusers and we often have a small stock of house-made ras el hanout.