Moroccan tagine recipe and holidaying in Tunisia

I have never been to Morocco, but I have been to Tunisia, and I think many (but not all) of the foods are similar. When holidaying in Tunisia, I ate lots of tagine type dishes – slow cooked and warm with comforting spices, served with fruity couscous and freshly baked French baguettes to mop up all the juices. Harissa with olive oil and bread for dipping was another favourite and salsa, salad and seafood. So. Bloody. Yummy.

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the best thing EVER; traditional Tunisian harissa

We brought back some spices for the tagine – the markets have ready-mixed blends for red meat, fish, chicken – so you don’t have to worry about getting all the balanced perfect, although it’s good to experiment. I had a little scour online and came across this recipe to make your own Ras-el-hanout spice mix or you could buy one like this; both, I think, would work perfectly well in this recipe.

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traditional, beautifully hand painted tagines in the souk in Djerba, Tunisia

Quick note on equipment: If using a traditional terracotta tagine like I did, you will need to make sure you have immersed it in water for at least a few hours before it’s first use. You can read all about seasoning a traditional clay tagine here. Do all the prep on the hob in a heavy based frying pan, then transfer to the tagine when ready to slow cook in the oven. Alternatively, something like a Le Crueset lidded casserole pan works very, as it can go straight from the hob to the oven.

What you need:

  • olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 carrots, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 700g mutton, or lamb (I used mutton, reared locally and bought from the Housekeeper’s Store at Tatton Park)
  • 1 tin chickpeas, drained & rinsed
  • 100g dried apricots
  • 200g cherry tomatoes
  • 1 red chilli, left whole
  • 600ml chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon of Ras-el-hanout spice mix
  • handful coriander chopped
  • salt & pepper

What to do:

Pre-heat oven to Gas 3/160°C/Fan 140°C. Massage the meat with a little olive oil and coat with the spice mix, give it a good rub so that all the meat is coated. Season with some pepper but not salt at this stage as that may toughen the it.

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Brown in a large casserole type pan on the hob over a medium-high heat for 6-8 minutes, adding the whole red chilli after about 5 minutes.

Remove the meat and chilli from the pan and set aside. Wipe the pan clean and add about 1 tbsp. olive oil. Over a medium to low heat, add the chopped onion, carrots and soften for 3-5 minutes. Next, add the bay leaf, chilli from earlier and garlic and stir over the same heat until you can really smell the fragrance from the garlic.

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Once the onions and carrots have softened but not browned, return the meat back into the pan. Add the tomatoes, chickpeas, apricots and stock. Bring to a simmer then transfer to the oven and cook at Gas 3/160°C/Fan 140°C for 2.5 hours, checking it once or twice and adding further liquid if it seems too dry.

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finished traditional Moroccan tagine with mutton

Serve with a fruity, herby couscous, a dollop of natural yogurt, freshly chopped coriander and freshly baked French stick. YOU’RE WELCOME!

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As it’s such a sunny day today, here’s some more holiday snaps of beautiful Tunisia. I was completely in awe of how intricate and stunning the hand painted bowls and artwork on the walls were:

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local restaurant in Djerba, taken before opening time. We later feasted on traditional delights there in the sweltering sunshine! <3

Do you plan to go on holiday, or travel this year? I’d love to hear where you’re going! What food are you most looking forward to when you get there?

Sophie -x-

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