Moroccan cuisine is rich in spices. Cumin, coriander, saffron, chiles, ground ginger, cinnamon, turmeric and paprika are commonly used. The combinations are widely varied and each kitchen has its own secret blend (comprised of anywhere from a few to 100 different spices). Raz el hanout is typically a blend of cinnamon, turmeric, freshly ground black pepper, nutmeg, ground cardamom seed and ground clove that is used in couscous and tajines. In addition to dried spices, garlic, chiles and fresh herbs such as coriander (cilantro) and parsley are also commonly used. Harissa, a very spicy paste of garlic, chiles, olive oil and salt, is used during cooking and/or as a condiment on the side for those who want extra heat.
Thanks to my friends who brought me back some Moroccan spices from their trip to Marrakesh, I now have paprika, saffron, harissa dry mix and a blend of 4 spices (for grilled fish) to experiment with.
I decided to start with the paprika and made this spicy rich Moroccan stew. As I do not have a wonderful Tajine (a North African cooking pot with a dome-shaped top), I made it in a Dutch oven (large casserole). It tastes even better the next day. Serve it with the traditional couscous.
Moroccan Beef Tajine
5 mL (1 tsp) cayenne pepper
15 mL (1 Tbsp) paprika
15 mL (1 Tbsp) ground ginger
15 mL (1 Tbsp) turmeric
30 mL (2 Tbsp) ground cinnamon
10 mL (2 tsp) freshly ground black pepper
1 kg (2 lb) stewing beef, trimmed and cut into 5 cm (2”) cubes
2 large onions, chopped
60 mL (4 Tbsp) olive oil
3 cloves garlic, crushed
800 g (28 oz) can chopped tomatoes
125 g (4 oz) dried apricots, quartered
60 g (2oz) sultanas or raisins
5 mL (1 tsp) saffron, soaked in cold water
625 mL (2-1/2 cups) beef stock (preferably homemade)
15 mL (1 Tbsp) honey
30 mL (2 Tbsp) cilantro, chopped
30 mL (2 Tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped
Mix together cayenne, black pepper, paprika, ginger, turmeric and cinnamon in a small bowl. Place half of the spice mixture into a large plastic bag, add beef and toss to coat well. Leave in refrigerator overnight.
Preheat the oven to 150°C (300°F).
Heat half of the olive oil in a Dutch oven (or large casserole dish). Add chopped onion and remainder of spice mix; cook over gentle heat until the onions are soft but not coloured. Add garlic and cook a few minutes longer, until fragrant. Remove from pan and set aside. Heat the remaining oil; add beef and brown all sides (this might need to be done is several batches depending on the size of your pot). Add some of the juice from the tomatoes to deglaze the bottom. Return onions to the pan; add chopped tomatoes, apricots, raisins or sultanas, saffron, beef stock and honey. Bring to a boil, cover and place in the oven to cook for 2-2½ hours (until meat is tender). Garnish with chopped cilantro and parsley. Serve hot over couscous.