Even before I had visited Marrakech, I had already tasted Moroccan tagine at a local Victoria restaurant and had become enamoured of the unmistakable, splendid tastes of this North African country. A trip to Morocco, however, will imbue any subsequent taste of its cuisine with rich and fond memories that greatly enhance each long-savoured bite. When I now taste slow-cooked lamb or beef simmered in cinnamon, cumin and honey, or whenever I open up the lid of a hot tagine fresh from the oven, I imagine Marrakech – the magical, medieval city with its labrynthine alleys, with its fruit stalls and monumental date pyramids or its many wooden carts filled with fresh mint leaves, with its colourful tins of bulgur, lentils and dried beans, or its famous night market where each bodily sense of the observer is titillated.
I don’t eat a lot of beef at home, so tend to lean more towards cooking chicken tagine when in the mood for Moroccan. If I have the time, however, I thoroughly enjoy the robust taste of beef tagine cooked to slow perfection with raisins, honey and middle eastern spices. I remember once seeing this dish served with sauteed apples glazed with honey and cinnamon, to lend a pleasant tartness to the dish, so I’ve duplicated it here. I didn’t use a tagine to cook this dish, but you could have just as easily cooked this in a tagine in the oven or stovetop, instead of in a large saucepan.
2 lbs of beef chuck steak or lamb, fat removed, cut into 1 inch cubes
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp unsalted butter
3/4 cup yellow onion, sliced (about 1 med. onion)
1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
1 tsp cumin
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 stick of cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1 3/4 cup water
3/4 cup raisins
2 tbsp honey
2 granny smith apples (or any other tart apple type)
2 tbsp butter (for the apples)
1/2 tsp cinnamon (for the apples)
1 tbsp honey (for the apples)
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1. Trim the fat from the beef or lamb, then cube into 1 inch pieces. My butcher volunteered to do this for me which probably saved me 10 minutes, so it’s worth asking.
2. In a large saucepan on high heat, add half the butter and oil and then begin to brown the meat in small batches. Don’t cook the meat all the way through, just until the outsides are no longer red (3-5 minutes per batch). When all the meat is browned, set aside, though keep the oil in the pan.
3. Bring down the heat to medium, then add the remaining half of butter and oil, and soften the sliced onions for 5 minutes.
4. Add the seasoning and spices, except the cinnamon stick, then stir for 2 minutes. Add the water, stir, then add the beef or lamb back to the saucepan, then add the cinnamon stick. Cover and simmer over low heat for 1 1/2 – 2 hours hours, or until the meat is tender. During the last 30 minutes of cooking, add the raisins and 2 tbsp honey, then stir before resuming cooking.
5. When the meat is nearly finished cooking, wash the apples (keep the skins on for added tartness), remove core, then cut the apple into eighths. In a large frying pan heat the 2 tbsp butter and cook the apples for 12 minutes, turning frequently. During last 5 minutes, drizzle the apples in honey and sprinkle with cinnamon, then continue cooking until finished.
6. With a large spoon, transfer the meat to a serving dish and pour the juices over, then arrange the cooked apples on top. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds and serve hot. Serve on a bed of couscous if desired.