My first introduction to a true Moroccan tajin came from a friendship with Nabila – a French Moroccan. She, as many other Moroccan immigrants, experienced her own share of discrimination in her native France. It was her tajins, as she reflects, that eventually created acceptance and friendships in her new home.
A traditional tajin meal is made and served in a clay dish (also known as the tajin) that comes with a pointing conical lid, just like the hood of a Jesuit monk. When cooked on low heat, this ingenious ancient cookware acts like an oven – evenly and slowly cooking the meat and vegetables.
Waiting to be served a tajin comes with a great sense of anticipation. It is a magical moment when the platter is placed in front of you and the lid gets lifted. You are suddenly hit and enwrapped in the steam and smell of a dozen spices. Your nose now tickles while the tajin platter still sizzles. It makes every guest I’ve ever served a tajin to salivate and exclaim. Make sure you keep the lid on when you serve this aromatic stew and lift it off with much panache.
Tajin is a traditional North African dish that is typically placed over hot coals and given time but little attention once started. Slow is good. Don’t rush the process and you will be rewarded with much deeper flavors.
Use the preserved lemon rather than a regular lemon. This is how to make preserved lemons.
To try this recipe, you do not need to purchase a tajin – use a regular pot to see how this dish resonates with you. If it does, get your own clay tajin. A word of caution on buying this cookware: be sure that the seller has independent testing done to confirm being lead-free. Some makers use lead and cadmium-containing glaze. These toxins are known to be endocrine disruptors.
For all practical reasons, you can also make the tajin in a slow cooker – leave it on for the day, go to work and come back to a house that smells like the Marrakesh food market.
- 2 tbsp ghee (clarified butter)
- ½ yellow onion, slices in "half moons"
- 1 sweet potato, cut into ½ inch medallions.
- 4 pieces of chicken, rabbit or cornish hen
- 2 tsp sea salt
- 2 tsp Ras El Hanout (Moroccan spice mix)
- 2 small zucchinis, cut lengthwise to quarters
- 2 carrots, cut lengthwise in half if it's a thin carrot or in quarters if it's large
- ½ preserved lemon, cut to ½ inch chunks (how to make preserved lemon)
- 20 green or black loves, pitted
- Melt the ghee in the tajin or the pot.
- Place onions and sweet potato at the base of your tajin or pot.
- Rub the chicken with salt and Ras el Hanout spice mix and place on top of the onions.
- Place carrots and zucchinis over the chicken as if you were building a tent, using your vegetables to cover the chicken.
- Scatter the olives and preserved lemon all over the dish.
- Cover and cook on slow fire for 3-4 hours. The slower the better. If you are using the slow cooker, give this stew 8 hours.