If you have ever been in a true Moroccan restaurant you must have had noticed that lots of dishes are called tajine. This week, may I introduce you to a great, healthy and tasty dish called Tajine of Lamb and Olives with Argan oil.
Tajine (or tagine) is in fact one of the most popular -if not the most popular!- North African dish that takes its name from the earthenware, made of painted or glazed clay, pot used to cook it. This earthenware is made of a flat base and a cone-shaped top lid that stays on the base during the cooking process, to be removed only before serving.
When you make a tajine you have to braise, slow cook the food at low temperatures and for a few hours. Lamb and chicken are the most common ingredients found in tajine dishes, together with apples, apricots, raisins, olives, prunes, nuts and of course spices such as paprika, cumin, pepper, turmeric, saffron, etc.
Argan oil, which is the third main ingredient in our dish, is made from the kernels of the argan tree and is very popular in Moroccan cuisine because of its nutritive properties. It seems in fact that argan oil contributes to prevent cardiovascular diseases, obesity and some kinds of cancer. Moreover, studies show that cholesterol can be reduced with the intake of argan oil.
If you want to impress your friends with a simple, exotic, succulent dish, then tajine is the perfect choice for you!
2 lbs. (about 1 kg) lamb, cut into 2″ to 3″ pieces
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, chopped medium
1 tablespoon ginger
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled
1/3 cup argan oil
small hanful of cilantro sprigs, tied together
1/2 cup green olives with pits
1 cup water
Layer the sliced onions on the bottom of a tajine. In a bowl, mix the meat with the chopped onion and spices, and add the mixture to the tagine along with the water, argan oil and olives. Place the cilantro bouquet on top of the meat.
Cover the tajine, and place it on a diffuser over medium-low heat. It will take some time for the tajine to reach a simmer, but once it does, leave it undisturbed for about three hours, using the lowest heat necessary to maintain the simmer.
There’s no need to open the tajine unless you smell something burning. In that case, the heat was likely too high and a little water will need to be added to prevent scorching.
After the tajine has cooked for three hours, check on the meat. It should be very tender and easy to break apart with your fingers. If necessary, cook longer. When the meat is tender, reduce any excess liquid, and serve.
It’s Moroccan tradition to serve the dish directly from the tajine in which it was cooked. It’s best scooped up with crusty bread, with each person eating from his own side of the dish.
Recipe courtesy of http://moroccanfood.about.com