Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Crockpot Tagine

mmm...tagine !

I’ve been doing tagines in my crockpot for a while now (see here for my first foray :
Somehow, I still have yet to acquire an actual tagine. It’s not that I don’t want one, of course…it’s just that it’s been working so well in my crockpot that I haven’t felt the need to run out and buy one (not that that’s ever stopped me before…”impulsive kitchen spending” should be my middle name[s] ! ) I’ve tweaked and twaddled and done all sorts of things to this recipe since I first started on the road to Morocco, and I’m really happy with where it’s gone…so happy, in fact, that I feel the need to share it with you all. It’s my blog; I can totally do that :) .
In addition to messing around with the recipe, I’ve included one for Ras el Hanout. What is Ras el Hanout, you ask ? Translated from the Arabic it means “head of the shop” – basically, the top shelf of spices that the merchant offers (as in high quality), all mixed together as a sort of Moroccan house seasoning.  It usually involves a good dose of what we think of as sweet spices: cinnamon, coriander, nutmeg etc mixed with some hot and/or peppery elements. Many stores sell a bottled version all ready to go (the McCormick version is likely available at your local supermarket; at least it is at mine), or you can very easily mix your own. The good thing about mixing your own is that if you’re violently opposed to, say, anything anise or fennel flavored (as everyone in my house is) you can just leave it out.
The other fun thing about this one is the garnishes. I love meals that you put out with a pile of garnishes; everyone ends up with a custom version of what they like best, and you don’t have to worry about picky people not liking some of your ingredients. The preserved lemon is an especially lovely (but sometimes controversial)  ingredient…preserving lemons in salt turns the rind into a silky, fragrant condiment …a little too perfumy for some, though. If you’re game, preserved lemons are super easy to make (once again I must link to my beautiful friend Sarah’s blog : ; but they do take a lot of time (almost all hands-off). Luckily; they are also starting to creep into stores ; I was able to find a jar at Russo’s ( ), much to my instant tagine gratification. Harissa is another fun condiment; a fiery hot red pepper paste. Your favorite hot sauce (Tabasco, sambal oelek, sriracha) will stand in nicely; I’ve also found some nice hot picante olives that work beautifully. Or just enjoy your tagine as is; you’re driving the bus here !
The recipe as written out here works equally well with lamb or chicken, though I strongly recommend chicken thighs if you’re going the bird route (they hold up so well in the crockpot, yet they’re not so dark that they offend anyone opposed to dark meat). I’m sure turkey or a stewing sort of beef would also work beautifully. Just collect yourself up a couple pounds of meat, get together some Ras el Hanout, and have at it!

Crockpot Tagine (chicken or lamb)

1 -2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
3 -4 garlic cloves, chopped
1  inch fresh ginger, finely chopped
4 teaspoons Ras el Hanout
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
salt and black pepper to taste
1 cup chicken stock (plus additional if needed)
1 pinch saffron or 1 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 lbs boneless skinless chicken or boneless lamb, chopped into large chunks 
2 (14 ounce) cans diced tomatoes, with liquid
2 (14 ounce) cans chickpeas, drained
6 ounces dried apricots, chopped or quartered if large
2 carrots, peeled & diced
Rind of 1 preserved lemon, rinsed and pulp removed, chopped (optional)

Couscous, for serving (prepare according to package directions; we prefer the larger Israeli type here)  
Garnishes : Additional preserved lemon, cilantro, harissa, chopped green olives (picante olives are quite nice)
Heat oil in a large frying pan and saute onions for 5-10 minutes, or until translucent. Add garlic and ginger and cook for another minute; add Ras el Hanout, cayenne, salt and black pepper and cook another 30 seconds, or until you can really smell the spices. Add chicken stock and saffron; gradually mix in flour until well incorporated. Add honey and tomato paste and mix well; remove from heat.
Transfer mixture to the slow cooker;  add meat, tomatoes, chickpeas, apricots, carrots, and lemon (if using); stir gently but well to mix. Liquid should come just to the top of the mixture; if it seems dry add a little more chicken stock.
Cook on LOW for 8 hours or on HIGH for 3 to 4 hours. (cooking times depend on your slow cooker)
Serve over couscous (prepare according to package directions)

Ras El Hanout
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon turmeric
1 tablespoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

Combine and mix well; store in airtight container.