I SPY: A Test Run

Feb 24, 2016

Guess what one of the most valuable activities we did was in Morocco?  A cooking class at our riad El Fenn.  My boys and I were taught by the hotel chefs to make their typical local dishes beef 'Tagine', 'Zalouk' eggplant salad, 'Tatouk' mixed peppers salad and Moroccan salad which is mixed cucumbers, tomatoes and onions.

Impressed?  We were very proud of ourselves that we made a full meal.  Bonus, it tasted as good as it looked!  The chefs dictated what we had to do, but for real they made us do all the hard labor and sweating over the stove.  The kids made great sous chefs, and now that I know I can trust them with a knife I'm going to start making them chop stuff at home to prep dinner.  Child labor!  Not really…I like to think of it as teaching them life skills.

I ate Tagine or Couscous almost everyday in Morocco.  Addicted!  They have various recipes using different meats and sauce concoctions: beef, chicken, lamb or fish.  I had to try all!  My boys favored the beef tagine the most, which is why we requested to learn that.  But I like the chicken tagine that's cooked with olives, lemon preserves and potatoes.  This is what I have to learn to cook next!

We did a test run last night on the beef tagine we were taught, and it came out perfect the 1st try!  WOO HOO.  Pat, pat…I must take good notes!  HA. I was surprised, and expecting to do a few test runs because in the kitchen the chefs didn't measure anything.  They were just pulling out things for us to chop or add, and I had to eyeball everything and make a guesstimate.  I wasn't sure of how much spices to add because when they told me to sprinkle it I was always told to add more!  But I did the daunting task of measuring everything for you last night, so I can actually give you a recipe to follow. Remember doctor it to your taste preferences, and don't be afraid to be heavy handed on the spices.  Moroccan food is full of flavor.

Dinner last night was cooked in a tagine we brought home from the Marrakech souks.  If your not familiar with what a Tagine pot is, then you can Google it and there are plenty available online to purchase.  It's a clay pot with a large cone shaped cover that helps keep the condensation at the bottom of the pot that assists in concentrating the flavor.  I'm not sure how it will work if you try cooking this in a regular pot.  Your probably better off using a slow cooker.  However, tagine's are pretty and many are decorative looking, so why not add charm to your pot collection?

Here's the recipe.  Serve it with bread to dip in the sauce, or a side of plain couscous.  Bon appetite!


3 lbs small beef shanks with bone in (we had 4 shanks)
6 garlic cloves
1 small red onion
5 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 Tbsp salt
1/2 Tbsp pepper
1 Tbsp ground ginger
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1 cinnamon stick
2 large handfuls of cilantro
1/2 cup of water (more to add later if needed)
12 dried prunes
1/2 Tbsp sesame seeds

1. In the tagine pot generously coat the beef shanks with all the olive oil
2. Turn stove on to low heat
3. Chop the garlic + onion and add to tagine
4. Sprinkle the salt + pepper + ginger + ground cinnamon into tagine
5. Cover the tagine pot and let everything stew for 30 minutes
6. Flip the meat after 30 minutes
7. Chop cilantro and add to tagine
8. Add the cinnamon stick to tagine
9. Add 1/2 cup water
10. Keep covered and let it stew on low/ simmer heat for another hour.  It should not be boiling over
11. In a separate bowl, soak the prunes covered in water and add the sugar to water.  Leave it to sit
12. Keep checking the tagine pot every 30 minutes while stewing in the last hour.  Flip the meat.  If the sauce starts to dry out keep adding 1/2 a cup of water and re-stew to let the sauce thicken.  The sauce consistency should not be watery, but not extremely thick either.
13. When the meat is tender and the sauce consistency is correct, drain prunes from water.  Add prunes to the tagine on top of the meat.  Close pot and stew for 10 minutes.
14. Then you can sprinkle a few sesame seeds on each prune as decoration before serving.

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