Vegetarian Moroccan Tagine

10 Aug
Vegetarian Moroccan Tagine

Three years ago, in the summer of 2008, I spent two weeks traveling around Morocco with a friend. We had both been studying Arabic and thought this would be a good chance to practice; of course, once we arrived, we quickly realized that Moroccan Arabic is so different from Modern Standard Arabic that we were better off falling back on our knowledge of French! Luckily, my friend was practically fluent and I had five years of middle school and high school French classes under my belt – not that it did me all that much good, as this trip was probably the only time I’ve had people ask me why I’m so quiet and shy.

The two of us got into a lot of shenanigans, but I would say that the highlights of the trip, from Marrakesh to Essaouira to Casablanca to Rabat to Tangiers, were always undoubtedly the food. The best fresh squeezed orange juice, mouthwatering savory-sweet bastilla, and gorgeous fragrant tagines.

Moroccan tagines are traditionally made with slow-cooked lamb or chicken (and feel free to add some, if you so desire), but here I’ve created a vegetarian version of a Moroccan tagine – chock full of spices and veggies.  The flavors are exquisitely balanced – salty, sour, spicy, and sweet all play harmoniously here, and the variety of textures also provides a lot of interest with this dish.  I prefer to mix individual spices here as it allows me to adjust the flavors to exactly what I want, but you can use Ras el-Hanout (a Moroccan spice blend) instead if you wish.

Vegetarian Moroccan Tagine
Yield: 6 – 8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • pinch cayenne pepper (or more, to taste)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • approx. 1 Tbsp ginger, minced
  • 1 hot pepper, seeded and minced*
  • 1 preserved lemon, quartered and seeds removed**
  • 2 large carrots, sliced
  • 1 large can (28-32 ounces) tomatoes (whole, diced, or crushed are all fine)
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 large can (28-32 ounces) cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 3/4 cup dried apricots, chopped***
  • 3/4 cup almonds, blanched and peeled
  • 2 cups swiss chard, chopped****
  • 1 Tbsp cilantro, chopped
  • salt

*I used a serrano pepper because that’s what I had around, but you can use your favorite hot pepper or omit entirely.
**Preserved lemons can be found at specialty markets (and sometimes even regular grocery stores these days!) or you can make your own.
***Feel free to substitute other dried fruit – raisins or dates also work well.
****I used swiss chard because we have a whole lot of it growing in our garden, but other greens will also work well; just make sure to add less fibrous greens like spinach a little later in the cooking process.

Method:

  1. Combine 1.5 tsp cinnamon; 1 tsp cumin; 1/2 tsp coriander; 1/2 tsp nutmeg; 1/4 tsp cloves; 1/4 tsp white pepper; 1/4 tsp black pepper; 1/4 tsp turmeric; 1/4 tsp paprika; and a pinch cayenne pepper in a small bowl.  Set aside.
  2. In a dutch oven, large pot, or tagine, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil to medium heat, and sautee 1 large onion, sliced until caramelized.
  3. Add 2-3 cloves garlic, minced; approx. 1 Tbsp ginger, minced; 1 hot pepper, seeded and minced; and the spice mixture to the pot and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  4. Add 1 preserved lemon, quartered and seeds removed and 2 large carrots, sliced and cook, stirring, another 30 seconds.
  5. Add 1 large can tomatoes and 4 cups water.  Bring to a boil, then let simmer for 15 – 20 minutes.
  6. Add 1 large can cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed; 3/4 cup dried apricots, chopped; 3/4 cup almonds, blanched and peeled; and 2 cups swiss chard, chopped.  Simmer for 10 – 15 minutes or until carrots are tender.
  7. Stir in 1 Tbsp cilantro, chopped and salt, to taste.
  8. Serve over couscous or bulgur, or eat plain.

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6 Responses to “Vegetarian Moroccan Tagine”

  1. Joseph August 19, 2011 at 1:40 pm #

    This recipe looks awesome. I am planning to try it out this weekend.

    • Claire August 19, 2011 at 1:51 pm #

      Thanks, let me know how it goes!

  2. Joseph August 20, 2011 at 11:32 am #

    What is a quick way to make a substitute for preserved lemons?

    • Claire August 20, 2011 at 12:34 pm #

      I’d recommend sauteeing a sliced fresh lemon in olive oil with a pinch of salt and a pinch of sugar until the rind is soft (5 – 10 minutes) although you probably wouldn’t be too bad off using some fresh lemon juice and lemon zest.

      • Joseph August 23, 2011 at 4:56 pm #

        I have tried the recipe over the weekend and it came out pretty
        tasty. I think the recipe could benefit from additional dried
        fruit and perhaps more swiss chard. The spice combination is
        excellent. I would add the quantity of olive oil (I should have
        used more)and would be more precise on what is meant by “large can of tomatoes” – I used the right amount but others may use less since they don’t like tomatoes as much as I do.

        Overall, an excellent recipe.

        • Claire August 29, 2011 at 1:46 pm #

          Thanks for the great feedback – glad to hear the tagine worked out well for you! I’ve updated the recipe to include the quantity of olive oil I recommend (1 Tbsp) and the size of a large can of tomatoes (28 – 32oz).

Let me know what you think!

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