Monday, September 15, 2014

Moroccan tagine

For this third week of Vegan MoFo, I am shifting to main meal options. Several of this week's posts focus on cuisines that I have long admired but barely tried. Today is an example: we are travelling to Morocco, a country that is high on my places to visit even aside from its edible appeal.

Moroccan cuisine tends to include aromatic spices and dried fruit, both things that I enjoy in savoury (and sweet!) dishes. Tagines are slow cooked stews that, traditionally, are made in dome-shaped clay tagine pots. The dome-shaped lids work to trap steam and return the condensed liquid to the pot. This is helpful in areas where water is scarce, obviously quite common in parts of Morocco.

My tagine was not made in a traditional dish, but fortunately a standard casserole dish will work if you don't have shaped clay pots at your disposal. Similarly, whilst the traditional cooking method is to place a tagine dish over charcoal, modern kitchens can make do with a mix of initial high-heat stove top cooking followed by longer low-heat oven baking.

There are certainly many meat-containing tagine recipes, but vegetables still feature strongly in those and eggs and dairy generally don't. Thus, tagines are easy to veganise. Legumes provide a nice stand in for meat-based protein, and the vegetables can be adapted to what you have on hand.

I adapted my recipe from a vegetable tagine featured on BBC Food, which starts with instructions for chermoula paste. This is a spice mix common to Moroccan cooking, and in this case, it is a key component of the tagine. Other tagine recipes use slightly different spice combinations, but paprika, ginger and coriander generally feature. There is a hint of chilli in this too, and based on feedback from Mr Bite, the dish may be classified as moderately spicy. If you prefer a milder option, reduce or omit the chilli to taste. I thought the spice level was perfect, so it really depends on your preferences.

I served this for dinner when my Mum was visiting London earlier this month, and it was a hit with her and me, and accepted by Mr B (the spice levels prevented him loving it!). It is definitely a dish I'll make again, albeit with some chilli modifications to make it more universally appealing.

Moroccan tagine
A flavour packed, moderately spicy, slightly sweet stew for 4
Vegan and gluten free

Blender or food processor required
Requires approximately 2 hours to prepare and cook

Author: Adapted from a Moroccan tagine on BBC Food

For the chermoula paste -
1 red or brown onion, peeled and chopped
2 garlic cloves
1/2 cup (125ml) lemon juice (about 3 large lemons)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp rice malt syrup (this replaces honey; other liquid sweeteners would work but won't give quite the same flavour)
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp turmeric
1 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp dried ginger
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp dried coriander

For the tagine -
1 tsp olive oil
3 red or brown onions, peeled and chopped
3 medium potatoes, chopped into medium pieces (no need to peel)
3 carrots, cut into chunks
2 red or yellow peppers, cut into chunks
1-1/2 cups cooked chickpeas or white beans
12 dried dates, chopped
1-3/4 cups (435ml) water

Mint leaves, to serve, optional
Bread, to serve, optional

To make the chermoula paste, blitz the ingredients together in a blender or food processor. You should end up with a relatively smooth, thick paste.

Pre-heat your oven to 200'C (390'F). Depending on your dish options, you can either use the same casserole dish to cook on the stove top and then transfer the dish to the oven, or, use a separate saucepan on the stove before switching to an oven-proof casserole dish.

On the stove top, heat your dish over high heat and add the teaspoon of olive oil, onions, potatoes, carrots and peppers. Cook, stirring regularly, for 8 to 10 minutes. By 10 minutes, the onions should be lightly browned and the other vegetables starting to soften. Add a little water if the mix starts to stick.

If using two dishes, transfer your vegetables to an oven-proof casserole dish at this point.

Add the chickpeas / beans, chopped dates, chermoula mix and 1-3/4 cups water to the vegetable mix, in the casserole dish you will bake in. Stir well. Cover with a lid, or aluminum foil shaped into a dome to be used as a lid.

Cook in the oven for 45 minutes, then reduce heat to 160'C (320'F) and cook for another 30 - 45 minutes, until the potatoes are fully cooked through and the water has been absorbed.

Serve as is or with bread or a grain of choice, plus mint leaves if desired.

Have you tried much Moroccan food? Do you have any favourites?

This post is part of my participation in the 2014 Vegan Month of Food. This week I am focusing on main meal options.

Previous 2014 Vegan MoFo posts:
Breakfasts-                                                                                               Snacks-
#1 - Vegan French toast                                                                                
#6 - Chocolate coated banana chips
#2 - Apple and strawberry muesli                                                             
#7 - Barbecue inspired nori snacks
#3 - Mango coconut buckwheat breakfast pudding                              
#8 - Carob latte
#4 - Tips for a vegan breakfast on the go                                               
#9 - Tide Tables Café
#5 - Chickpea pancakes with spicy kale and mango                             #10 - Dark chocolate and espresso almonds


  1. I sort of consider tangines to just be stews so your information about why Morroccans use the tangine pots and how to replicate it is very useful - I wonder how I would go fitting a tangine pot in my oven as they always look very tall but maybe they are made for stovetop (yep I don't have a clue). Sounds like an interesting dish - e and I get around our differences in comfort levels with chilli by him using tabasco sauce a lot - which is useful but means I don't get the exposure to chillis that I have had with other housemates who made spicier food than I was used to - I did get used to more spicy food

    1. I am not sure how traditional tagine pots would go in modern kitchens either! They seem quite unwieldy. I imagine in Morocco they are still used over open fires, at least in some places, but that doesn't quite line up with either an oven or a stovetop.

      I think my spice tolerance has probably reduced since catering for others' (or one others' ;) ) taste buds. I used to have the occasional burning dish which probably increased my tolerance over time, but now I'm usually in the 'mild' category when eating out myself!

  2. I love the rich flavor of tagines and how adaptable they are to veggies! All that stewing just brings out such great flavor.

    1. It does indeed! The time is definitely worth it.

  3. I have an authentic tagine I reeeeeally needed years ago (my parents got it for me as a present). Number of times it has been used: zero. Really need to get on to that...

    1. Oh, those kitchen things that don't get used! But I bet it looks nice, right? ;)

      Try it out and tell me how it is :-)

  4. I'm a chilli fan and I'm rather impatiently waiting for my chilli plants to hurry up and cough up the hot stuff. My meals are lacking!

    1. Are you training your little ones to follow in your heat loving footsteps? I suspect if I struggle to cater to just my own and Mr B's tastes, throwing children into the mix would be a challenge indeed.

  5. I don't have a tagine either but would love to try making this. I love the sound of all the spices! I also love dried fruits in savoury dishes

  6. I would also love to visit Morocco. I also don't have a tagine dish and make my tagines in a very British casserole dish. I love tagines because of the dried fruits and spices and legumes. This looks lovely, Kari and I'm glad you and your mother enjoyed it and what a shame Mr Bite doesn't like spice! xx

    1. I know! Although in fairness to him, he does like it, just not too much of it. Sometimes I get the balance wrong :-)

      My tagine was in a British casserole dish too so I think there's hope for all of us!

  7. I don't have a tagine cooker, and to be honest haven't made one from home ever, I don't think my other half would find them appealing - he's not keen on fruit in with mains. Though when we go out I totally love them. I'll have to give your version a shot one time when he's out for dinner!
    I'm starting to think our Mr's are somewhat similar with their tastes lol


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