One day not long before Christmas, Therese and I decided to pair making a wonderful tagine with a trip to see Life of Pi at our favorite movie house, the Ziegfeld Theatre. The plan was that basically I would do all the prep and cooking, and then we would let the tagine rest while we went to the movie, and then we would come back, make some couscous, and have a spectacular dinner. Was it spectacular? Indeed it was. For some details, please read on.
If you look on the internet, you will find literally dozens of 7-vegetable tagine recipes. Now, I know you have heard me talk many times before about Paula Wolfert and her cookbook The Food of Morocco. Well, her 7-vegetable recipe is just like what the tagine I ate when I ordered this dish in Marrakech on our trip there in 2011. Like many tagine recipes, it does take a while to execute. However, it is much more straightforward than many other recipes: most of the time is spent just waiting for the thing to cook. The prep is not too bad at all.
To start with, you slice up an onion and get it cooking with some water and olive oil in your tagine, on a low to medium heat.
Now take a skillet, warm up some more olive oil, and start browning the lamb. I used 4 shoulder chops, which totaled about 2 pounds.
Once the lamb is nicely browned, move it to the tagine and cover it and get it cooking with the onions and such.
Meanwhile, reserve the juices in the skillet, add some spices like saffron water and La Kama spice mixture, and roll your vegetables around in the liquid to coat them. For the record, my 7 vegetables included: carrot, sweet potato, parsnip, zucchini, cabbage, tomato, onion and parsley. Wait, that’s 8! Hmmm, maybe the onion doesn’t count? Or the parsley? I’ll let you decide. I know I had at least 7!
Once you’ve got all your vegetables nicely coated (well not all of them – don’t worry about the cabbage, tomato and parsley), move your lamb to the middle of the tagine, and stack the carrot, zucchini, parsnip and sweet potato around them to form a nice pyramid. Then you put the tomato slices, parsley (in a bundle) and cabbage on top of the pyramid. Hopefully, your cone shaped tagine lid will fit nicely right on top of this!
Once you get the lid on, you just let the tagine cook for around 2-1/2 hours. When it’s done, move the whole tagine from the stove to a counter, making sure to cover the counter with a dish towel if it is a hard stone counter like mine is (if you omit the towel, the tagine might crack from the contrast in temperature).
Okay, I hope you still reserved the skillet full of lamb juices. Because now what you need to do is tilt the tagine, spoon off the juices, and add them to the skillet, and heat that up and reduce the sauce. This juice mixture is just gold, so make sure you don’t get rid of it!
When your sauce is looking kind of syrupy, turn off the heat, and drizzle it over the top of your tagine.
At this point, the tagine is ready to eat. However, that’s not what we did. We covered it and went off to our movie, Life of Pi, at the Ziegfeld Theatre.
Life of Pi is a really good film, and looks great on a big screen like the one at the Ziegfeld. It was in 3D with glasses and everything. We could’ve done without the glasses, but otherwise, we enjoyed the movie. Since I’ve talked about the Ziegfeld before, I thought it might be great to just show you some pictures to give you an idea of how beautiful it is.
When the movie was done, it was time to head home and steam some couscous (I do it the easy way, by using the generic stuff that you add to boiling water and let the grain just absorb the water and then serve). Then we served up the tagine (which we had warmed up a bit), and all was glorious.
Of course, it is a nice idea to find a good beverage to go with this incredible tagine. We had bought a bottle of Deus “Brut des Flandres” beer a few days earlier, and I suggested we drink it with our tagine. The whole thing was wonderful. The beer was very much like champagne, very light but flavorful, and the tagine was absolutely extraordinary. The vegetables are buttery and soft, quite rich in flavor, the lamb is succulent and so moist. I literally sighed while I was eating, I was so pleased.