MARCH 5, 2018

Tagine of yams, shallots, carrots and prunes

“The great secret of an authentic tagine is to simmer the ingredients over a low heat, so that everything remains deliciously moist and tender.” – Ghillie Basan, from easy tagine


A stew worthy of poetry, as Ghillie Basan writes in her introduction to easy tagine, seems right on the mark for this new venture into cooking vegetable as tagines.

I mentioned this in my first post for the Moroccan cooking method, that there’s no reason to tuck away the slow cooker for good, or to shelve the new one-pot, but when these two appliances are considered up against the beauty, efficiency and flavor of the tagine, there is no real comparison.

The tagine is an old and beautiful approach because it allows for, first of all, a surface hot enough to sautée your initial ingredients. In the yam, shallot and carrots recipe, the first ingredient down is diced ginger, which becomes quickly wonderfully aromatic, then cinnamon, which naturally enhances and sweetens this initial aroma. Whole shallots (I happen to cut mine into quarters) comes next until they are colored. This is the base of the stew as poetry.

Beautiful, classic Moroccan cooking vessels

Because it is in tagine, it is very visible and accessible, just like cooking in a shallow dutch style ceramic. No doubt it could continue to cook topless if chosen, especially to reduce. Add bite size jams, chopped (or whole) prunes, and strong drizzle of honey and then 1 1/4 cups of broth, season and stir, and this is, as you look at it, already a wonderful looking concoction. Yet it is the covering that makes all the difference.

Unlike the one-pot, there is no sealing a cover; unlike the slow cooker, there is no anticipation for either a 5 or 8 hour wait; instead, this cover draws and recirculates the moisture of the broth and oils up an down the contours of the cover, and quickly.

We imagine that this is the best method we might come up with for jams and carrots, both of which need not only the patience of a proper steaming method to soften. It just happens that the Moroccan tradition allows this to happen in a kind of syrupy and eventually caramelized liquid.

With a few minutes left in the cooking time, lift the cover and set aside, allowing for whatever remaining liquid to thicken. Toss a pinch of shredded mint and cilantro over the top here, within the 25 minutes, is a kind of uniquely presentable vegetable stew that really can’t fully be duplicated in pan or insta-pot. As the recipe suggests, serve with plain and buttery couscous and the meal is complete.