One of the most celebrated of Moroccan dishes, tagine is named after the earthenware pot used to cook the dish itself. The conical shape of the tagine pot is distinctive for a reason, as it ensures that rising steam created in the cooking process condenses and then falls back to the food, continuously basting the ingredients within. This mechanic is ideal in the dry climates across The Magreb where water must be used sparingly in drought seasons. Tagines are ultimately designed for the gradual and gentle cooking of tougher, usually cheaper cuts of meat. Beef brisket, shin or lamb shoulder are slowly transformed into something magical as the pot keeps its contents delicately moist and infused with spices.
This autumnal tagine recipe combines grass fed beef shin, butternut squash, chickpeas and sticky prunes. Inspired by Pink Jinn’s Ras Al Hanout spice blend, this dish is the ultimate celebration of this complex and aromatic blend of spices used widely across North Africa.
The tagine takes several hours to produce but can be left bubbling away at your leisure as the prunes will all but disintegrate and infuse the tenderised meat with their sweetness. Make sure to get ahead by marinading the meat in the spice rub for several hours beforehand – or even better, overnight.
Examples of the marriage between sweet and savoury are prolific in Moroccan cuisine and it’s something that Moroccans do artfully, from oxtail tagine with luscious prunes or purple black figs, chicken thighs simmered in a honey, cinnamon-spiced sauce with plump raisins or the infamous bastilla (flaky filo pastry filled with tender meat or fish, topped with icing sugar). This beef tagine is no exception to the Moroccan tradition of mixing savoury with sweet, and the result is simply delicious. Serve on a bed of steaming couscous with fresh parsley and fine green beans.
600 g of beef shin or other stewing beef, chopped into 2cm chunks
½ a bunch of fresh coriander
1 x 400 g tin of chickpeas
800ml organic vegetable stock
1 tablespoon Ras Al Hanout
800 g butternut squash
100 g prunes
2 tablespoons flaked almonds
1 level tablespoon Ras Al Hanout spice mix
1 level tablespoon ground cumin
1 level tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 level tablespoon ground ginger
1 level tablespoon sweet paprika
Mix all the spice rub ingredients together in a small bowl with a good pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
Put the beef into a large bowl, massage it with the spice rub, then cover with clingfilm and place in the fridge for a couple of hours, or if possible overnight.
When you’re ready to cook, peel then finely chop the onion and pick the coriander leaves, finely chopping the stalks.
Heat a generous lug of oil in a tagine or casserole pan over a medium heat, add the meat and fry for 5 minutes to seal. Set aside the meat in a bowl for later. Add the onion and coriander stalks and fry for a further 5 minutes.
Drain and tip in the chickpeas, add the beef, additional Ras Al Hanout and then pour in the stock and stir well. Bring to the boil, then cover and reduce to a low heat for 1½ hours.
Meanwhile, deseed and chop the squash into 5cm chunks, then destone and roughly tear the prunes. Toast the almonds in a dry frying pan until lightly golden, then tip into a bowl.
When the time is up, add the squash, prunes and more liquid as needed (you can use boiling water). Give everything a gentle stir, then pop the lid back on and continue cooking for another 1½ hours. Keep an eye on it, adding those splashes of water if needed.
After an hour and a half, remove the lid and check the consistency. If it seems a bit too runny, simmer for 5 to 10 minutes more with the lid off – the beef should be really tender and flaking apart now, so taste a little and season to taste.
Scatter the coriander leaves over the tagine along with the toasted almonds. Serve with a big bowl of lightly seasoned couscous and dive in.
Originally published on pinkjinn.com