The first ten minutes in the medina of Marrakesh, I was in shock. The taxi driver dropped us off and waved his hand deep into the web of streets:
– Your hotel is somewhere there, not far, about a hundred meters. It’s too narrow for a car to get through,” the driver said.
The houses really stand close to each other, the flow of pedestrians mixes with motorcyclists and merchants’ carts. Huge noisy anthill, and I feel like a complete stranger here. My husband walks confidently, cutting through the crowd, and I try to keep up, moving behind him. At some point, I understand that he is lost and his confidence is feigned. We are looking for a hotel, but we are walking in circles, and I am very uncomfortable. How to live among this hustle and bustle, among the noise? Why did we come to Morocco at all?
I expected palaces with fountains, trays of oriental sweets, restaurants with trestle beds covered with embroidered pillows, where we would be served exquisite dishes on silverware decorated with hand-chased patterns. I was expecting a fairy tale, but I ended up in a labyrinth from which there is no way out. And suddenly, when hope had completely abandoned me, we found our riad – that is the name of the old houses in the historical centers of Arab cities.
We went through a carved wooden door and found ourselves in a wonderful indoor garden in the courtyard of the house. Fountain, embroidered pillows, silence and coolness. I think I’m starting to like it. The French hostess treats us to Moroccan tea, and after learning that I starred in the television project “Master Chef” and came to travel around culinary Morocco, she immediately offers us to move the next day to her other riad. “Aziz is there,” she says, “he is a great cook, you will have something to talk about.”
And after a day or two, I cook borscht with my new friends, and they teach me how to cook tagines and couscous.
When I leave the house, all the sellers of the neighboring shops recognize me, say hello, ask how I’m doing. I suddenly feel like not just a tourist, but a member of their huge family. On the third day in the medina of Marrakesh, I find peace and harmony. And every day I learn something new about the cuisine of this country. How I did not want to leave Morocco – I really want to plunge into the noise and bustle of the medina again!
The principle of cooking in a tagine
Moroccans owe much of their invention of the tagine to the arid climate of their country and the scarcity of fresh water in Morocco. Here, as they say, there would be no happiness, but misfortune helped. Tajines require a minimum amount of water to cook wonderful dishes. The domed lid catches fragrant steam, which cools down, and then rolls back into the pot in drops.
Thanks to the principle of steam circulation, Moroccans and Algerians manage to create real culinary masterpieces – not a single note of taste and aroma leaves the coveted pot! Of course, it is important to add that the dishes in the tagine are prepared exclusively on a slow fire.
What is cooked in tagines
National Moroccan and Algerian stews based on chopped meat, poultry, fish, vegetables and fruits.
Raisins, cinnamon, nuts and light honey are added to almost any tagine. Yes, the combination of sweet and sour flavors with meat in Moroccan and Algerian dishes is quite popular. For example, a real hit is lamb cooked in tagine with dates. Well, and, of course, it cannot do without spices: ginger, cumin, turmeric, saffron. A magical combination of subtle shades.
There is something to please and vegetarians
– amazing vegetable stews can be created in this miracle pot. At the same time, in the finished form, each vegetable will retain its own unique taste. By the way, it is customary to cook vegetable tagines more spicy and piquant than meat ones. Therefore, chili and paprika are generously added to them.
Moroccans also add a special spice to their tagines – Raz el Hanout. Its name is translated from Arabic as “the head of the store”, that is, the most important spice. For its preparation, cinnamon, sesame, ground ginger, pepper, nutmeg, coriander, cloves, cardamom and other ingredients are used (each cook may have his own recipe).
There is also a Tunisian tagine. But the dish that is prepared in Tunisia is more like an Italian frittata or omelette. It necessarily contains eggs, to which a generous amount of various ingredients are also added. They especially like cheese, meat and fried peppers.
Traditionally, tagines are cooked over smoldering coals. But delicious dishes in tagine can be cooked at home – on an electric or gas stove. Of course, tagines for home use are somewhat different from classic clay tagines. As a rule, they have a base made of cast iron. But the principle of cooking remains the same, so the dishes are consistently delicious.
Tagine is also a color and an authentic atmosphere! It is not only cooking utensils, but also a beautiful, original way of serving dishes. The dish is not shifted, it is brought to guests directly in a pot. The participants in the meal gather around the tajine and each one eats from it from his side. Instead of cutlery, they use fresh Moroccan bread, which is dipped in a thick, rich sauce. Agree, there is something to surprise guests!
First recipe: chicken legs
Prepare the legs by cutting off the vertebral bone at the thigh and excess fat. Wash the chicken and pat dry. Mix all the spices on a wooden board or grind in a mortar and grind the chicken in them, reserving a little mixture for the vegetables.
Then salt the chicken a little and fry until a little golden brown in a hot frying pan with olive oil, and then remove to a separate bowl.
In the pan where the chicken was cooked, fry the onion, garlic, chili and transfer them to the tagine. Cut pumpkin, pepper and carrot into large cubes.
Place the prepared chicken in a tagine over a bed of fried onions. On top of the chicken meat, distribute finely chopped salted lemon, prunes and almonds (leave part of the almonds for serving), and spread slices of pumpkin, pepper and carrots around the slide.
Vegetable paradise in French: the second recipe for a dish in tagine with a photo
For cooking, you need to take:
- 1 zucchini;
- 1 eggplant;
- 2 tomatoes;
- 2 sweet peppers;
- one bulb.
The marinade for the dish is prepared from the following ingredients:
- 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil;
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar;
- pepper, salt – optional;
- 1 chili pepper (preferably in oil);
- 1 sprig of rosemary (in oil);
- 2 cloves of garlic;
- 1 tablespoons of fat sour cream.
To submit, take:
- 1 pack of mozzarella cheese;
- fresh herbs to taste.
Let’s start cooking a dish in a tagine according to the recipe “Vegetable Paradise”.
We wash our vegetables. We cut the eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, onions and peppers into rings (no more than 1 cm), put everything in a bowl. Prepare the marinade by mixing all its ingredients. Pour the chopped vegetables with the prepared marinade, let them stand for 3-4 minutes.
We spread the vegetables in turn in a circle of tagine – we should get a multi-colored “accordion”. We spread rosemary, chili, crushed garlic on top, pour the rest of our marinade on top.
Cover with a lid and simmer over low heat for about 25 minutes. Serve with slices of mozzarella cheese and herbs to taste on a large platter.