I have mixed memories of our time in Morocco back in 2007. Morocco was the first “exotic” destination of our round the world adventure. While I had done a lot of traveling previously, Chris had never been outside of North America when we took off. Morocco was a place of firsts for us, embarking on our adventure. Our first squat toilets, our first traveller harassment (fierce), our first time truly getting lost, our first ancient markets, our first hikes into the unknown, and the first AMAZING food… the first of a whole lot of amazing food that we experienced on our travels. I look back on our pictures and to this day I can’t understand why I didn’t take more pictures of the food we experienced on our trip. Regardless of a lack of photos, the memories of the food remain. I remember the spicy sweetness of a pumpkin tagine and my mouth literally waters thinking back. I can’t smell mint without remembering the sweet mint tea that we drank multiple times, daily.
Our first roadside feast of a tagine is among my favorite memories of our trip. This Moroccan “fast food” restaurant had ten tagines sitting on small burners that would quickly be delivered to tables when patrons sat. No choice, you were just expected to eat the special of the day – a spicy kefta dish with fresh tomato sauce and eggs. Heavenly.
Another memorable meal was in a tent, in the desert. Chris and I had gotten engaged, sitting on a sand dune at sunset the night before (sounds cheesy now, but what a beautiful memory regardless!). Our trusty camels “Bob Marley” and “Jimmy Hendrix” were resting in the highest heat of the day, and our safari guide prepared a simple mix of chopped vegetables, olives and a spicy harissa (roasted hot pepper paste), accompanied by sweet mint tea and bread. Perfection.
I do have a picture of that meal:
This dish is reminiscent of those Moroccan flavours. It is a yummy combination of flavours, all which are enhanced by a squeeze of lemon and some fresh and fragrant coriander. I have a stove top tagine and an oven tagine. I find I get a lot more use from the stove top version, however special cookware isn’t necessary – a tagine is basically a stew, and can be made in any pot with a lid.
Tagines are beautiful combinations of veggies, meat (if you eat meat), spices and usually dried fruit like raisins, prunes or apricot. I served my tagine with couscous, but if you are in Morocco you are more likely eating a tagine with bread (and lots of it), or couscous – cooked in the oven with meats and veg and bread (I remember eating a lot of bread in Morocco!).
Tagines lend themselves nicely to root vegetables (they are stews, after all). Onions, sweet potatoes, carrots, potato, and squash are all staples in Moroccan cooking. The spices are most important – usually tumeric, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, cayenne and ras el hanout, the Moroccan equivalent of garam masala in India. It is a fragrant mixture of the mentioned spices as well as different peppers, sometimes garlic, ginger, etc.
This tagine crosses off all of the boxes for me: nutritious, fiber packed, delicious, easy, colourful, and the girls love it. Win, win, win. It is also delicious re-warmed as leftovers (it could be argued that it is even better the next day), and so good with some pita and hummus. More wins.
Here’s the recipe. It serves 4-5 adults
- 3 tbsp grapeseed oil
- 2 onions, finely chopped
- 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tsp tumeric
- 2 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2tsp cayenne
- 1/2tsp ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp ras el hanout (don’t make a special trip for it… fine without it)
- 1 tbsp local honey
- 3 medium carrots, sliced on diagonal approx 1/2″
- 2 19oz cans of chickpeas, rinsed and drained well
- approximately 15 dried apricots, cut in halves
- sea salt
- small bunch of cilantro, chopped finely
- 1 lemon cut in wedges to serve
Heat the oil in a tagine or heavy based pot on the stove top. Add the onion and garlic and sautee until soft. Add spices and cook for a minute. Add the carrots and honey, and pour enough water to cover the base of the pot. Cover with a lid and cook gently for 10-15 minutes.
Add the chickpeas and apricots, making sure that there is still liquid at the base of the pot (if it looks dry, add a little water or stock). Cover and cook gently for an additional 20-30 min or until the carrots are cooked through. Serve on couscous, topped with fresh cilantro and a lemon wedge. It is also delicious with a dollop of plain organic yogurt.
Couscous is simple to make. I used 2 cups of dry couscous which was enough for 4 dinners, with extras for lunch the next day. Place the couscous in a fine sieve and rinse well. Meanwhile bring 3 cups of water or stock to a boil. Add the couscous to the pot and turn off the heat and cover, undisturbed for 15 minutes. The couscous can be flavoured with some salt, butter, finely chopped mint and coriander, a little lemon zest, really whatever you like. It is a blank canvas.
Enjoy this delicious bowl of goodness and happy memories.