a moroccan tajine to remember
From learning the secrets of cooking perfect couscous, to enjoying a tranquil picnic in mountain gorges, Carlie Smith discovered why the aromatic flavours of Morocco will infuse your memories for years to come….
“Everything about Morocco was amazing – the sights, the smells, the people. However, the one thing that really stood out to me, and still does, was the amazing food experienced along the way. From something as simple as harissa and fresh dates eaten with the locals in the main square of Marrakech, to exotic tajines, with their incredible mix of savoury and sweet, cooked in the most wonderful earthen pots – just thinking about it makes my mouth water.
My favourite date and aubergine tajine recipe was inspired by my time spent in Todra Gorge. After spending the day walking through the fertile strip of the gorge, feasting on fresh figs and peaches given to us by the locals straight off the trees, we came back to our camp tired but at the same time buzzing from seeing just how self-sufficient the people of that area were. For dinner we ate one of the best meals of the trip. Tajines cooked from scratch, overflowing with chunky vegetables, plump prunes and apricots, the subtle flavours of spices just enough to keep you guessing. It was simply wonderful. I remember that night, laying in my bed and looking up at the stars above. The sky was so clear and I had such an amazing sense of peace and contentment.”
Date and Aubergine Tajine:
2 tsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 red chilli, halved and deseeded
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp turmeric
1 cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
1 large potato, peeled
600 ml boiling water
1 small aubergine (eggplant)
100g dates, chopped in half
1 tsp lemon juice
Salt and fresh black pepper
Chopped fresh parsley
Heat olive oil in a wok or large casserole (of course if you’ve got a ceramic tajine that will be perfect!). Fry the onion until translucent. Add the garlic, chilli and spices and stir-fry for a few minutes, until the spices are fragrant. Chop the potato into even sized pieces, add to pan and stir fry for a couple of minutes.
Pour in enough boiling water to cover the mixture. Bring back to the boil and simmer gently for 10 minutes.
Chop the aubergine and squash into even sized pieces and add these to the pan. Simmer until all the vegetables are tender and the sauce has thickened for about 10 minutes.
Add the dates, take off the heat and leave for a couple of hours, letting the spice infuse the sweet dates.
Remove the cinnamon stick, chilli and bay leaf. Add the lemon juice and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Garnish with plenty of chopped fresh parsley. Serve topped on couscous with toasted almonds and fresh mint. Enjoy!
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* photo by Elizabeth English – Intrepid Photography Competition