The company Karen works for had their Christmas party this past year at a Moroccan restaurant, which was an entirely new experience for the two of us. Admittedly, there are more than a few ingredients and foods on the traditional Moroccan menu that are definitely not what we would normally eat. However, for a first-time-ever-trying-this occasion, we let our hair down (figuratively, of course) and let our taste buds explore some very different flavors and textures than anything we have experienced in the past. We left knowing that we would have to do some experimenting in our own kitchen to see what we could come up with for some primal variations on this North African cuisine.
Traditionally, a tajine is a slow-cooked stew named for the specially shaped pot it is cooked in. Of course, we don’t have such a pot, but we took a little creative liberty and opted to use the name anyway – more in reference to the stew itself and the inspiration of ingredients within. Hopefully you’ll find it as pleasantly different as we did.
- 3 lbs grass-fed beef stew meat
- 3~4 zucchini and yellow summer squash, split lengthwise and cut into 1-1/2″ long chunks
- 3 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-1/2″ long chunks
- 2 cups okra (we couldn’t find any fresh at our market, so used frozen)
- 1-1/2 cup large green olives
- 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
- 3~4 cloves garlic, peeled and pressed
- 1/3 cup chopped cilantro stems
- 2 cups water
- 1-1/2 tsp ground dried ginger
- 1 tbsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp dried mint
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1/2 lemon, sliced lengthwise 1/4″ wide and seeds removed
- Cilantro leaves for garnish (the tops from the stems above)
In a large stock pot, throw in the stew meat. Add in the onion, garlic, ginger, paprika, cumin, turmeric, pepper, salt, mint, and cilantro stems. Pour the water in and give everything a good stir to combine. Bring the whole thing to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cover with a lid. Let cook on a low simmer for about 1 to 1-1/2 hours until the stew meat is tender. Option: you could choose to do all of this in a large crock pot and let cook on low for about 4 hours instead.
Once the meat is tender, add in the carrots and lemon slices and stir to ensure they are fully covered in liquid (add some more water if needed). Cover and cook for about 10 more minutes. If you are using the crock pot, combine this step with the next step and let everything cook for about 30 minutes total.
Next, add in the zucchini, okra, olives, and lemon juice. Stir again to mix everything well (add a little more liquid if necessary for everything to be just about covered), then put the lid back on and continue to simmer for another 10 minutes or until the zucchini and carrots are just tender.
To serve, spoon into shallow bowls and garnish with a sprinkling of fresh cilantro tops. Take in the aroma of the ginger and lemon blended with all of the other ingredients, for a moment, then dig in!