Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Tajine: Prune and Almond

French cooking might be world famous, but Tajine is all the rage in Paris. The method comes from the Maghreb, and uses a 'tajine,' which is an earthenware base and conical lid. The lid is put on to cook, and removed to serve the dish in the plate underneath. The dish itself can be composed of meats, fish, vegetables, and even fruits that are all cooked together at a low heat for an extended period, usually smothered in spices. It seems like this system creates a special circulation of the liquids, but I won't pretend to know anything about it.

This particular dish is Sweet&Salty, but if you want to avoid most of the sweet, just be sparse when you add the liquid from the prunes.

If prunes aren't your thing - though I would definitely suggest trying it at least once before deciding so - you can use apricots, dried figs, and even raisins their place. Ditto for the meat, just make sure to adjust the cooking period depending on the meat you choose.

One last note: we cooked this dish in a pressure cooker to save time, but you could easily do it in a good deep dish that closes well. Just add lots more time, and possibly a lower heat.

1 onion, hashed
1 onion, minced
4 T oil
1 heaping tablespoon each of:
ras el hanout (check an international grocery, its an arab/oriental spice)
1 tsp cinnamon
and a touch of saffron powder for color and flavor, if you have it
4 T chopped parsley, the punched up kind
at least 1-2 lbs meat - beef or veal, cut into large, rough cubes
~any rough cut will do, even if some of the bones are still stuck on
1/4 c raw almonds
15 or 20 dried prunes
~ or dried figs, apricots, and/or raisins to your taste
2 tablespoons sugar
1 (more) large tsp cinnamon
4 hard boiled eggs for decoration

1.Combine the onions, spices, parsley and oil and meat all together in your pressure cooker and bring to medium high heat.
~yes, French cooking would demand that you sear the meat first, but we didn't... so I won't pretend to know better!

2. After just a few short minutes, add enough water to cover the meat, close the pressure cooker and cook for 45 minutes if you're using large chunks of beef.
In the meantime, prepare your sweets and your decorations:

3. Prunes and prune sauce:
- Bring about 3 cups water to a low boil and add your prunes, 2tbsp sugar, and 1 heaping tsp cinnamon.
-Let simmer until the sauce is a deep, rich maroon. Probably 10 minutes.
- Not too much water here, because you'll have a sauce in the end, and want it good and concentrated.

4. Hard boil your eggs: Yes, this eludes me too... here is a good step by step tutorial. And here is Sabrina's method:
- Put the eggs in a small pot with cold water and a pinch of salt and bring to a low boil.
- Cover the pot, turn off the heat and leave it alone for 10 minutes
- Remove from the water and let cool before peeling, or if you're impatient like my mother, you can peel them under a running faucet.

5. The toasted almonds

- If you're starting with raw almonds you'll need to remove the skin. To do so, boil your almonds in generous water for about 10 minutes, strain, and just by pinching they should come out of their skins.
- Dry them
- In a skillet with just 1 tablespoon of oil, bring to a medium high heat to start to toast them
- Stay with them the whole time!!! Stir as you go, and stop as soon as they have a healthy brown on each side, but don't burn them! If the smaller almonds on the side are burning, just remove them.

6. When the 45 minutes in your pressure cooker is up, open the lid (using all safety precautions it demands!) and let it continue to simmer for 5-10 minutes to reduce the sauce, making it more concentrated in deliciousness.

7. Assembly: as we did not actually make this Tajine IN a tajine... we have to assemble it on a plate to serve it. Shame.
- Pour the meat and sauce onto the plate
- Garnish with the prunes, keeping the prune sauce aside
- Garnish almonds and the hard boiled eggs, cut into fourths
- The final step, drizzle the sweet sauce over top, according to your taste. We drizzled just a few generous spoonfuls, and even the two that had sworn they didn't like sweet and sour ended up in love.

1 comment:

  1. Wow! C'est vraiment très beau ce qu'il y a dans ce plat de tajine!!!!