Tag Archives: Moroccan

Spice Central: This colorful, flavorful Moroccan chicken tagine is a must-try

Spice Central: This colorful, flavorful Moroccan chicken tagine is a must-try

This Moroccan delight gets its bright yellow color from the addition of turmeric.

What’s the first word that comes to mind when I think about the food of Northern Africa and the Middle East? Colorful! The array of fragrant, exotic spices found in their open-air markets are used in abundance in native dishes and have become a trademark of their cuisines. Warming spices of turmeric, saffron, paprika, cinnamon, coriander and cumin are widely used in the aforementioned regions, and they create a harmonious experience for the eyes, nose and palate. Poultry, lamb, beef and goat are also staple proteins to the Arab diet and are often accompanied by rice and sometimes couscous. Replicating the cuisine from this part of the globe isn’t difficult at all and doesn’t require a trip to an exotic grocer — most ingredients can be easily found in the spice and World Flavors aisles at your local grocery store.

Now I’m sure a “tagine” (or “tajin”) may sound fancy and complicated to some, but it is simply a type of dish from North Africa. It gets its name from the cone-shaped clay pot with detachable base in which it is traditionally cooked and served in. For this recipe, a proper tagine pot isn’t required — a cast iron or heavy-bottomed pot with a lid will do just fine.

The following recipe for chicken tagine hails from Morocco, but the ingredients are commonly found in most cuisines from North Africa to the Arabian Peninsula. It gets its bright yellow color from the addition of turmeric. Substituting beef or lamb for the chicken will work just fine, and feel free to play with different spices if you so choose — add a dash of cumin or coriander to the braising liquid, or even a pinch of saffron.

Traditionally, tagines are served with couscous: tiny pellets made from semolina flour (the same ingredient in traditional pasta) that are cooked by pouring boiling water over them and then allowed to steam for about 15 minutes. The couscous soaks up the lemony olive sauce, making it an ideal base for serving.
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Casablanca in a bowl: Moroccan spiced carrot soup

Casablanca in a bowl: Moroccan spiced carrot soup

Here’s looking at you, carrots.

In keeping with my culinary exploration of flavors from around the globe, I decided that my next sojourn would be to the fabled land of Morocco. But being that I can’t afford the airfare, this trip would have to take place in my kitchen.

Moroccan food has always appealed to me because of its use of vibrantly colored and flavorful spices. The cuisine reflects Moorish, Mediterranean, Arab and Berber influences, its dishes even more heavily spiced than those of the aforementioned locales.

Cinnamon, coriander, cumin, turmeric, paprika, ginger and saffron are just a few of the many spices often used in Morocco’s signature tagines, couscous dishes, pastillas, soups and sides.

Besides the meat- and lamb- heavy main dishes, Moroccans use a wide range of fruit and vegetables in their cookery. That’s why I’ve chosen this flavorful carrot soup as the vehicle for my “spicy” fix.

Great for any time of the year, this brightly colored, puréed Moroccan-spiced carrot soup is creamy, bursting with flavor, easy to prepare and also quite healthy. The featured ingredient is chock full of dietary fiber, antioxidants and vitamins — namely, beta carotene and vitamin A, which is great for eye health.

(Though unfortunately the urban legend that eating lots of carrots will allow one to see in the dark isn’t true.)

Feel free to play around with the spices in this soup, adding more or less of whatever pleases your palate, or throw in a different combination of flavors typical of Moroccan cooking. And instead of orange carrots, why not grab some purple, red or yellow carrots to give it a colorful makeover?

My last piece of advice on this recipe: If you have a food processor, use it. It will surely save your hands from all of the chopping required and will cut your prep time in half.

Bil hana wish shifa’!
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