Carrots, peas, and cauliflower liven up this classic
Think beef stew is boring? Meet Moroccan Beef Tagine.
It has cinnamon, cumin, paprika, cayenne – and they all come out to play. They give this dish savor unlike any other beef braise you’ve had. And we pump ours up even more with frisky veggies.
Prepare to wow your guests.
Recipe: Moroccan Beef Tagine
Many countries have some sort of stew or braise that is traditional to their cuisine. In Morocco, it’s tagine (AKA tajine), which is the name of both the stew-like dish and the conical-shaped vessel used to cook it.
But tagine is easy to make in your own kitchen, and you don’t need a special cooking dish. Just think of it as beef stew with a flavor twist, and cook it in a Dutch oven.
You can make this recipe with any vegetable, BTW, not just the ones we use. Or skip the veggies entirely if you want a meat-centric dish.
Traditionally, the sauce for a tagine is not thickened. Tagine is a communal dish, one where everyone eats from a common serving platter rather than individual plates. Diners use fingers rather than utensils. Typically, they start by dipping bread into the sauce and sopping it up, waiting for the meat and veggies to cool enough so they won’t burn their fingers. Once the sauce is gone, diners proceed to the main event.
But we’re serving individual portions on plates, so we’ve elected to thicken the sauce. And instead of relying on bread to sop it up, we like to serve it over mashed potatoes. Or especially over Chipotle Mashed Sweet Potatoes – the spices in the tagine work perfectly with the richness of sweet potatoes. This dish would also work well over Polenta.
This recipe is adapted from one we found in our favorite Moroccan cookbook, Paula Wolfert’s Couscous and Other Good Foods from Morocco. The original book has been out of print for a while, but a revised edition is available.
Prep time for this dish is about 30 minutes, and cooking time adds another 1½ to 2 hours (largely unattended). You can make this dish a day or two ahead of time, then finish it off the day you plan to serve it.
This dish serves 6 to 8. Leftovers keep well for a few days if refrigerated in an airtight container.
- 2½ to 3 pounds beef chuck (or shoulder, short ribs, or other cut of your choice)
- salt for seasoning the meat (about a teaspoon; to taste)
- freshly ground black pepper for seasoning the meat (a few grinds; to taste)
- ¼ cup oil for browning the meat (more if needed; we use olive oil)
- 1 onion (medium or large)
- 2 cloves garlic
- ~½ pound carrots
- additional salt to taste (a teaspoon or two of kosher salt; see Notes)
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 2 cups beef broth (may substitute chicken broth or water)
- 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
- 1 head cauliflower
- a handful or two of frozen peas
- ~2 tablespoons of corn starch mixed with ½ cup cold water (optional)
- ¼ cup parsley and/or cilantro for garnish (optional)
- Cut the meat into chunks of whatever size you prefer (we often use larger chunks – about 2 by 4 inches). Pat the meat chunks dry with paper towels, then season with salt and pepper.
- Heat a large Dutch oven over medium stovetop heat. When hot, add the oil. Brown the meat on each side – it’ll take 5 to 8 minutes to brown each side. Don’t crowd the pan (do this in batches if necessary). When the meat is browned, drain it on a paper-towel covered plate.
- While the meat is browning, peel the onion and cut it into dice of ½ inch or a bit less. Set aside.
- Peel the garlic and slice it thinly or mince finely. Set aside.
- Scrub the carrots and peel them. Cut off the tips. Cut the carrots into pieces of about 3 inches (if the carrots are particularly thick, cut them in half lengthwise first). Set aside.
- When all the meat is browned, add more oil to the Dutch oven if necessary. Add the chopped onion, season to taste with salt, and sauté for 5 minutes. Then add the chopped garlic and carrots, and brown another 3 minutes.
- Add the browned meat back to the cooking pot. Add the spices (turmeric, cayenne, paprika, ground ginger, cumin, and cinnamon), along with the broth and the diced tomatoes. Bring the mixture to a simmer, then taste and adjust the salt if necessary. Set a timer for 1½ hours.
- Meanwhile, wash and dry the cauliflower. Cut the cauliflower in half, core it, and separate it into flowerets. Set aside. (You may roast the cauliflower at this point if you wish; see Notes.)
- When the timer goes off, test the meat (it should be almost done). Add the cauliflower, cover the cooking pot, and set the timer for 15 minutes. When the timer goes off, add the peas, and cook until all the veggies are done (another 10 minutes).
- If you want to thicken the sauce: While the veggies are cooking, mix the cornstarch with cold water.
- Wash and dry the parsley and/or cilantro, and mince it finely.
- When the tagine is finished, remove from it from the heat and stir in the cornstarch mixture (if using).
- Spoon mashed potatoes onto serving plates (or use another starch, such as Chipotle Mashed Sweet Potatoes). Spoon beef tagine over the potatoes, arranging pieces of meat and veggies artistically. Then ladle on some sauce. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and/or cilantro garnish (if using).
- Serve and enjoy.
- We usually make this dish with boneless chuck or shoulder roast. In Morocco, cooks typically use bone-in cuts. If you want to go that route, try short ribs.
- If you want to make this dish ahead of time, we recommend cooking it for 1½ hours (through Step 7). Let it cool, then refrigerate the dish until ready to continue. Resume with Step 8 when you’re ready to serve the dish.
- We sometimes squeeze a bit of lemon juice over each dish right before serving. It adds a nice acidic touch.
- We often use Roast Cauliflower in this dish (instead of cooking cauliflower with the meat; and in fact that’s how we made it for this post). If you’d like to do this, simply follow our recipe for roasting cauliflower, then add it to the tagine right before serving.
- We like to cook carrots with the tagine because they help flavor the sauce. We add the rest of the veggies near the end.
- Prefer to substitute other veggies? Try zucchini, turnips, or Jerusalem artichokes instead of cauliflower and peas.
- This dish is spicy, but not hot (in fact, many Moroccan dishes are not particularly hot). Increase the cayenne pepper if you want more fire.
- We use kosher salt for cooking. It has larger crystals than regular table salt, making it less salty by volume. If using regular table salt, start with about half the amount we recommend. But always season to your taste, not ours.
- Traditionally, tagine is cooked in an earthenware, cone-shaped vessel (also called a tagine). The vessel has two pieces. The bottom is a shallow circular base that holds all the ingredients. The top is a cone-shaped lid – the shape helps return the condensation that’s caused by the cooking process to the bottom of the dish. A Dutch oven or similar cooking pot works equally well, however.
- A Moroccan host would bring the bottom part of the tagine vessel to the table (it doubles as a serving dish). Guests reach into the dish, using the fingers of their right hands to eat.
- Messy business! But at a Moroccan dinner, it’s common to have a hand-washing ceremony at the beginning and end of each meal.
“This tagine is beautiful over chipotle mashed sweet potatoes,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “And we even get to use forks.”
“Which is good,” I said. “Because I don’t like to burn my fingers.”
“Less sauce down the chin, too,” said Mrs K R. “So no turmeric stains on your shirt.”
“And no greasy fingers dropping beef chunks in my lap,” I said.
“Bottom line,” said Mrs K R. “We like plates. And silverware.”
Truth. Even though Moroccans might dismiss it as forked up.
You may also enjoy reading about:
Chipotle Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Moroccan Kefta and Tomato Tagine
Couscous with Dried Fruit
Moroccan Carrot Soup
Or check out the index for more