I’m in love and you will be too. Be prepared for this North African specialty to have you swooning amidst mouthfuls of spice-ladened greatness.
Haven’t heard of Tajinew before? Don’t worry neither had I before I made it the first time a few years ago. Tajinew is a dish local to the central, Souss-Massa-Drâa, region of Morocco. It is a complex dish; an elaborate mixture of spices, vegetables, and meats made from recipes passed down from one generation to another……
Aaaaaaaaannnnnd I going to stop there because, to be honest with you, I’m full of sh^t.
It’s not from Morocco, it’s not even from North Africa. It’s not authentic, or steeped in tradition or passed from one generation to another. It is a made up name for one of my own creations based around Moroccan flavours – please don’t be mad! ? Did I convince you?
So what’s with the name?
Well this dish is pretty much a stew and I can’t stand the word “stew”. It sounds like something a grandmother from a Brother Grimm’s fairy tale makes; it conjures up the image of overcooked vegetables and tough, chewy meat (like mutton!) swimming in a murky, practically flavourless liquid. It doesn’t sound like a dish from an exotic origin and would never give justice to the flavours and sensations it has to offer.
So, thinking of Morocco of Northern African cuisine, I thought I would label it a Tajine. It sounds exotic but familiar enough and it felt like a winner. But it’s not a Tajine because I did not cook it in a Tajine.
I don’t even own a Tajine.
Do you have a Tajine? Is it worth it?
I think I may get one.
… after several painful minutes deliberating over this what-to-name-my-dish first world problem I came up with the perfect solution:
Tajine + Stew = Tajinew (see what I did there!?!? ???)
And so the Tajinew is born.
This Tajinew is the epitome of Nude Food Cooking; there are no processed foods in here (depending on how you feel about meat and ready cooked chickpeas?) and it can easily be made 100% from scratch. It’s full of vegetables and legumes all brought together with a stunning mixture of spices.
The recipe calls for chicken but, if this is just a little too boring and predictable for you (***Completely understand***), you can choose any meat, vegetable or legume to replace it. I have made Tajinew each with beef, lamb, quinoa and lentils as the main ingredient and all have turned out delicious. No, better than delicious.
Your home will be filled with the alluring aroma of spices making all your neighbours in a five mile radius jealous as anything. I guarantee you will be going back for seconds (and even sneaking to the fridge the next day, spoon in hand, to snatch a few sneaky mouthfuls – not that I have any experience of this, you understand.)
The secret to the Tajinew’s awesomeness? The Ras el Hanout spice paste. This thing is bursting with so many flavours; it’s an insane mash together of roasted spices, garlic, ginger and chilli, all pummelled together into flavour-buzzing craziness.
You can buy Ras el Hanout from your local supermarket but there can be obstacles:
Obstacle #1: Supermarkets never seem to stock Ras el Hanout when you need it, if at all. Two weeks ago when you were just perusing through the spice section, why, of course they had it. Now, when you need it, Nadda. Zilch. Zip. Bupkis. Nought. Nah, forget it maaaaaaaate!
Obstacle#2: It’s not like the real thing. Just like any other mass-produced, store-bought item it just doesn’t taste the same as good old homemade stuff. Plus many supermarket spice blends are “filled out” with Rice Flour (the biggest ingredient after salt in many of them) which kinda suggests you’re not getting the bang (or indeed the spice) for you buck.
Obstacle #3: Because making you’re own is just so much better I cannot guarantee this recipe will come out anywhere near as good with store bought Ras el hanout spice mixtures. You’ll have to mess around with amounts and may not get the same flavours, potency, blah blah blah!
Solution: MAKE YOU OWN RAS EL HANOUT!
But don’t be scared…. Making your own Ras el Hanout is not hard and it is WORTH IT! (you can throw it together in about 15 minutes and have enough make this Tajinew 5 times and more). It’s freezer friendly so you can save the rest for when you’re craving spices.
And when you’ve made up your batch of spice paste, this Tajinew becomes a crazy simple act of throwing ingredients together in a pot and watching them cook. It is a real “I’m feeling lazy but really, really want a wholesome, tasty and nutritious meal” kinda deal.
Quick, easy, and delicious food. This is what it is all about, right?
Oh and talking of making things from scratch this recipe also asks for freshly crushed tomatoes rather than chopped tomatoes in a can. Why? Because, again, it tastes so much better making your own. Just throw some tomatoes into a food processor/ blender and blitz them (this is the cheap-man’s way of making crushed tomatoes).
This Tajinew is an exotic yet humble meal made into easy home cooking. It is so good, especially if you make your own spice paste, and so simple you’ll be surprised at how quickly it comes together.
I would love to stay and chat but there are still leftovers in my fridge and I can’t say no to great food……
Moroccan Style Tajinew
Prep Time: 20 mins || Cook Time: 1hr 13 mins || Serves: 6 to 8
- 1kg of boneless chicken thighs cut into bitesized chunks
- Olive Oil
- 2 Med Onions, coarsely chopped
- 1 Capsicum (bell) pepper, any colour, coarsely chopped
- 2 Zucchinis (Courgettes) coarsely chopped
- 2 med carrots, coarsely chopped
- 800g – 1kg Tomatoes, pureed in a food processor/ blender
- 4 Tbsp Ras el Hanout spice paste
- 3 cups cooked chickpeas
- 200g dried Apricots
- 100g currants
- You will need a large stock pot or similar cooking vessel with a lid. Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil over med/high heat and, in batches, cook the chicken for a few minutes to seal. It shouldn’t be browned. Once sealed, transfer to a plate.
- In the same pot sauté the onions until soft. Add the Ras el Hanout spice paste and cook for a minute or so until the aroma of the spices becomes potent. Add the remaining vegetables and the chicken to the pan and stir thoroughly, making sure you coat everything in spice paste. Stir in the chickpeas.
- Pour in the pureed tomatoes and enough water (in my pot it was about 2 cups) to submerge all the ingredients by about 2cm. Bring to the boil. Cover with a lid and lower to a gently simmer for at least 30 minutes (but an hour is preferred).
- After simmering, remove the lid and turn up the heat to a firmer simmer – bordering on a boil – for about another 30 minutes to reduce the cooking liquid. You can turn it up to a rapid boil if this takes too long, just remember to stir frequently to avoid it sticking to the bottom. Continue until all watery liquid has evaporated. Serve with rice or Cous-Cous.
- Any meat can be substituted in this recipe although lamb would be my favourite
- If you are using lentils/ quinoa instead of meat I would suggest using around 1 1/2 cups of them dried and add an additional cup of water to the pot when simmering.