I have been bitten by the travel bug. Not recently. The bite’s been smoldering more or less my whole life with my actual escapades limited only by finances and well, youth. And now, in the absolute DEAD of winter. With over a foot of snow in NYC in the past two weeks and with even more snow on the way this weekend!!! This is usually about the time New Yorkers duck out for more tropical climates. My husband and I ran away from a devastating snow storm in March 2010 that brought down power lines and trees in upstate NY. So, we were jerks and literally left our friends in the dark while we frolicked around Montego Bay.
That same winter I had gone to Fez, Morocco for a work retreat. Although I didn’t have a chance to see Casablanca or ride camels in the desert, it was a great bonding experience with my colleagues. We did this great exercise in negotiation where small groups of us ventured into the bazaar with trinkets we had brought with us from our respective countries and tried to barter for the best deal. Someone traded an NYC Taxi Magnet for a lamp. Someone else bartered a snow globe for, what was it…a tagine?!
Segwayyyyy! A tagine is a Moroccan earthenware pot that’s meant for low and slow cooking. It’s got a flat bottom with low sides and a conical top that’s supposed to accumulate the condensation. That ends up basting the meat throughout the cooking time. Now, I didn’t make it back with a tagine, but I did score a Martha Stewart dutch oven when I got married. It’s got little bumps all along the inside of the lid that effectively does the same thing as the tagine top.
With the bottom round roast from Honest Chops, you want something that cooks for a long time to break down and tenderize an otherwise tough cut of meat. I went through all my recipe books and as much as I would’ve loved to try beef bourguignon or a beef daube, or even a pot roast, I just don’t have a good substitute for wine! Do you?
And since I’ve posted many a curry on this site, I thought I’d try something different. So I went with Jamie Oliver’s recipe for beef tagine. Spices, beef, chickpeas, vegetables, broth. Right up my alley, right? Unfortunately, it wasn’t. I felt like there was a spice overload. A whole tablespoon of cinnamon – not bad. But then a tablespoon of cumin. A tablespoon of ground ginger. Paprika. Ras el hanout. I don’t even have ras el hanout (literally – top of the shop) spice mix. So I just did a quarter tsp of spices typically found in it – ground cardamom, coriander, chili powder, turmeric, nutmeg and all spice.
You rub the spices into the meat and let it sit overnight (or at least 2 hours). They look and smell great at this point. Like fragrant truffles (is that redundant?). And when you brown it in the oil, it gives off the slightest golden hue from the turmeric. But that’s where my love affair ends. I tasted it 1 hour, 1.5 hours, and 2 hours into the cooking time. And I thought it was perfect at 1.5 (which is half the cooking time he suggests). I just wanted to avoid the fate of a certain boneless short ribs. But it was good at 2 hours as well. The prunes were a good additional as well. All in all – worth trying, just not my favorite.
Recipe courtesy of Jamie Oliver.
- 1 tbsp cinnamon, cumin, paprika, ground ginger
- 1/4 tsp turmeric, nutmeg, coriander, chili powder, cardamom and all spice
- 2 tsp salt (more to taste)
- 1/2 tsp pepper (more to taste)
- 1 to 1.5 lbs organic, grass fed, bottom round roast, cut into cubes
- 2-3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 1 bunch cilantro stems, chopped
- 1 can chickpeas (14 oz)
- 1 can crushed tomatoes (14 oz)
- 3 1/2 cups vegetable stock
- 2 summer squash, sliced (I don’t know if this is the type of squash he had in mind, but he didn’t specify so I went with the easiest one)
- 6-7 prunes, chopped
- cilantro, for garnish
- cooked couscous, quinoa or rice for serving
- Rub all the spices with the meat and let sit in the fridge overnight or two hours at a minimum.
- Heat oil in a tagine, dutch oven, cast iron casserole, or large pot over high heat. Add the meat, spices and all, and let brown for 5-7 minutes. Add onions and cilantro stems and stir, scraping up browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Cook for an additional 5 minutes. Add chickpeas, tomato and broth and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low and cook for an hour and a half, stirring occasionally to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom.
- After an hour and a half, add squash and prunes. Cover and cook over low heat until squash cooks through (about 30 minutes).
- Taste for seasoning. Garnish with cilantro and serve with preferably quinoa and a hit of lemon or lime juice.
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