Monday, November 19, 2007


I’ve already shared a recipe for a Jordanian tagine, which is a little bit like sharing a recipe for a French Bierwurst or a Swiss Paella. So here’s a truly ‘Moroccan style’ tagine, for what that’s worth.

Like much Middle Eastern food, this dish wouldn’t look out of place being served on a manor house table in the Middle Ages, where it would likely take its place in a ‘trencher’ – a plate carved out of bread. The idea of mixing meat, dried fruit and spices dominated cookery throughout that period and came to European cuisine through the incredible cross-fertilisation of cultures that took place in the Mediterranean basin from the late C9th through to the fall of Byzantium in the C15th. Is tagine crusader food? Did the Knights Templar and Hospitaller learn to mask strong (old) meat with spice and sweet fruit in the Middle East and take the method back to Europe with them?

Or did the Romans get there first?

Whatever the cultural mixture, the end result would transform cookery in both Europe and the Middle East, establishing the demand for expensive spices such as cardamom, pepper and cinnamon in Europe. The Romans had already discovered the delights of laser (asafoetida or heeng to you and me, mate) as well as these other spices, but it is in Medieval cookery that we first start to see these incredibly rich stews of meat, fruit and nuts. Seasonally apt for the timing of this post, this mixture of ingredients eventually became mincemeat – which today only preserves suet (animal fat) from the original meat in the mixture.

And so we arrive at my argument. Your mince pie owes its origin to dishes like tagine – spice, fruit and meat together in a harmonious and thoroughly enjoyable stew.

Serve with couscous...

Chicken and Apricot Tagine

A Jordanian Tagine

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