I received a lovely gift for my birthday last month from my good friend Ariella! A Tagine!
I have wanted a Tagine for a long time but just never got around to actually buying one. Surprising myself really, as I love the results this amazing earthenware pot produces and of course, I love cooking. But it is extra special now because Ariella gave it to me.
So what is a Tagine? (Also sometimes spelled tajine) It is actually a word with two meanings. The word Tagine is the name for the pot and it is also the name for the dish prepared in it.
The earliest writings about the concept of cooking in a Tagine appears to go as far back as the ninth century.
The traditional Tagine is made from earthenware and comes in two parts. The bottom is a circular base that is flat with low sides. The top part is domed and it sits on the base during cooking. The shape of the cover is designed to return all steam to the bottom. Cooking the food in it by combining all different flavors and spices together for a few hours on a low heat. It can be painted or glazed. Today you can also find it made out of ceramic or clay.
The concept of cooking in a Tagine is to layer the food in a pyramid shape. One layer of ingredients on top of another. The recipe I am about to share is perfect for any meat or fish or you can cook just vegetables if you like. I chose the traditional lamb shank for this dish.
Traditionally there will be some sweet dried fruits added to the savory recipe such as raisins, prunes or dates. But you can add apricots or other dried fruits that you like too.
In Israel, Moroccan Jews, Algerian Jews, Tunisian Jews and Libyan Jews commonly eat and prepare dishes made in a Tagine owing to their presence in North Africa going back several thousand years. Tagine is a very important dish in Sephardic cuisine, often prepared for Shabbat dinners or Jewish holidays and served with couscous.
My grandfather was a Moroccan Jew and my great grandparents were Tunisian Jews, so for me it is a personal delicacy to prepare food cooked in a Tagine.
If you treat yourself to a Tagine, I hope you try this amazing dinner made in one pot!
Or maybe you will be as lucky as I am and receive it as a gift!
Here's what you need: Serves 4 (increase amounts for larger servings)
2 large or 4 small lamb shanks with bone in
1 large or 2 medium onions - sliced coarsely
6 peeled garlic cloves
½ lb tri-colored sweet bell peppers cut into long thick strips
2 medium sweet or regular potatoes - peeled and cut into quarters
3 large carrots - peeled and sliced into rounds fairly thick
1 - 2 zucchinis - peeled or unpeeled and sliced into thick rounds
1 cup of raisins
1 lemon sliced into rounds with peel on
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup parsley - chopped coarsely
1 teaspoon salt or to taste. You may need a little more.
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon harissa hot pepper sauce or chili powder (optional)
1 ½ tablespoon silan (date syrup or honey.) *See link at bottom for Silan.
A little water to add as your food absorbs the liquid. Amounts will vary.
All seasoning an be adjusted to taste
How to cook it:
Prepare lamb shanks by rinsing in cold water and patting dry with a paper towel. Make 3-4 slits in the fatty parts and place whole garlic pieces in top and sides. Wherever you can get one in.
Heat oil in the tagine on your stove top and sauté onion slices until yellowish and translucent. Mix in all the spices. Add the silan or honey. Stir.
Cook for 2 minutes. Add the lamb shanks and place the lemon slices in-between as shown in photo below.
Add the carrots and potatoes placing them on top of the lamb. Repeat the same with the tri colored bell peppers.
Add the Zucchini and scatter the raisins.
Add 1 cup water, cover and cook on low - medium low heat stove top for 20 minutes.
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
After 20 minutes transfer the covered pot (I do this in two steps, the bottom part first then the top part covering it in the oven. It is very heavy so take care not to carry it in one step)
Cook in oven for 3-4 hours, basting it every half an hour and checking if more liquid is needed. If it looks a little dry add a little water to the base.
After one hour of cooking I turned my lamb shanks over and then again after another hour ending by placing them fat side up.
The last 15 - 30 minutes remove cover and let shanks brown a bit. This part is optional, if you prefer your meat browned. You should still have enough liquid at the bottom of the pan for juices to pour over this divine dish. Remember that every oven heat is different. You can judge whether it needs browning or not or whether it needs more liquid added.
The presentation this meal makes on the dining table is unmatchable! You will impress your guest and family like never before.
Enjoy and Bon Appétit!
Shabbat Shalom everyone! שבת שלום לכולם!
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