You don’t need a conical tagine dish to make tagine in your own home. You can use a Dutch oven, which is what I did when trying this recipe of Paula Wolfert’s from her fascinating “The Food of Morocco” (HarperCollins, $45).
“Beef tagines can be very good indeed,” she writes. “After hours of slow simmering, the meat comes out buttery and soft, and the sauce acquires excellent flavor. The spicing in this dish follows the Marrakech style, while the sauce acquires excellent flavor.”
She goes on to praise the beef dishes: “These highly aromatic tagines, flavored with paprika and cumin, are sturdy dishes, nourishing and thick, especially good in winter — satisfying to wary travelers and men who have done hard physical work, or to folk who have just come off the ski slopes an hour outside Marrakech. Though they are not among he most elegant of dishes, these hearty stews are truly toothsome.”
When making the dish, follow the instructions carefully on how to handle the cauliflower. I cut it up too soon, so it was hard to turn during the roasting. The original recipe calls for the last half of the herbs to be stirred into the dish and cooked for a few minutes; I preferred to garnish the dish for an even fresher flavor.
Beef Tagine with Roasted Cauliflower
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided use
3 pounds beef short ribs or 2 pounds bone-in beef shoulder, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1- to 1 1/4-inch chunks
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, preferably Moroccan
1 medium white or red onion, grated
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro, divided use
2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley, divided use
1 (2-pound) cauliflower
Pinch of red pepper flakes or cayenne, to taste
12 ounces Roma (plum) tomatoes, peeled, halved, seeded and chopped
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Heat a tagine, preferably flameware, set on a heat diffuser over medium-low heat until warm. Mix 1 teaspoon salt, the pepper and turmeric with 1 1/ tablespoons of the olive oil and add to the warm pan.
Add the beef and sauté gently until golden on all sides. Place a crumpled piece of parchment directly over the meat, cover tightly and cook for 15 minutes, without lifting the cover. (The meat will cook in its own juices, drawn out by the salt over low heat; do not add water.)
Add the paprika, ginger, cumin, grated onion, half of the herbs, and 1/2 cup water. Cover again with the parchment paper and the lid, and simmer gently for 3 hours, until the meat is very tender and has fallen off the bones.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Cut the cauliflower in half, then cut each half lengthwise into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Lightly brush a jelly-roll pan with 3 tablespoons of the olive oil. Mix the remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil with 1/2 teaspoon salt and a pinch of red pepper flakes, and gently toss with the cauliflower. Spread the cauliflower out in one layer on the pan and roast for 15 minutes. Use a spatula to turn the slices over and roast for another 15 minutes, or until lightly caramelized. remove from the oven, cover loosely with paper towels and set aside.
Remove the meat from the tagine and remove and discard the bones. Return the meat to the tagine. Tilt the pan and spoon off and discard the excess fat. If necessary, add a few tablespoons water to make a smooth sauce.
Chop the cauliflower into bite-size pieces and scatter with the tomatoes over the beef. Bring to a boil to reheat. Correct the seasoning with salt, black pepper, red pepper flakes and the lemon juice. Sprinkle the remaining herbs over the top, and serve at once.
Makes 4 to 6 servings.
Adapted from “The Food of Morocco” by Paula Wolfert