Sunday, July 18, 2010

Tanjia: recipe for a slowcooked Moroccan feast

The View from Fez ventured into the souk this week to learn how to cook a tanjia, a traditional dish from Marrakech.
The tanjia is a classical clay pot that is used for cooking. The same word is used for both the pot and the resulting dish - rather like the word tajine. A tanjia is a well-known bachelor dish, and every man in the medina will tell you how difficult it is to make (perhaps it is, for men who don't usually cook!). Ingredients differ around Morocco - in Marrakech they don't use onions; in Fez they do.

the butcher adds meat to the tanjia

photo: Tara Stevens

First we took our tanjia to the butcher on Tala'a Kebira, and asked for 1kg of lamb on the bone. He chopped it up for us, and stuffed it into the tanjia. Meanwhile, we cut an onion into large chunks and tossed it in along with a whole head of garlic, a small preserved lemon and some salt and pepper. The butcher has his own blend of ras al hanout (mixed spices)and threw in a fistful along with some chopped parsley and fresh coriander. Then we added some oil and water, and went on our way.

our butcher prepares the parsley and coriander
photo: Tara Stevens

Our next stop was the spice seller where we added some saffron threads, cumin and some bayleaves. At the olive stall, we begged a small chilli and threw that in too. It was nearly ready for the oven.

The Ain Azleten hammam has an oven next door to heat the water, fuelled mostly by sawdust and woodchips. This was our final stop. On the step of the oven, we mixed the contents of the tanjia with a long-handled lemonwood spoon and then secured some aluminium foil over the top. Handing it to the farnatchi (the man who looks after the fire) at noon, we were told to return at 6pm when it would be cooked to perfection.

And so it was. We went back to the hammam around 6, armed with some towels in a basket for easy of carrying, and took it home. Turned out into a serving dish, it was a delicious feast - the tenderest of meat falling off the bone, quite rich with the bone marrow that had seeped into the unctuous sauce, spicy but not hot. Served with bread and a light tomato salad, it made a wonderful meal for two.

Tanjia pots cooking in the coals at the hammam oven

Here's the recipe for a Fassi tanjia. You could, of course, use beef (or even camel) instead of lamb, and experiment with apricots or almonds, adding different vegetables if you wish. If you don't have access to a tanjia and a hammam oven - a slow cooker or a very slow oven will produce the same result. Unless you can turn your oven down very low, you won't need to cook it for 6 hours.

1kg lamb on the bone
1 large onion, cut into chunks
1/2 preserved lemon, flesh discarded
small head of garlic
salt and pepper
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp ras al hanout
1 tbsp loosely packed saffon threads
5 bay leaves
half a small bunch each of parsley and coriander, roughly chopped
a small piece or fresh ginger or a small red chilli
200ml water
100ml good olive oil

Mix all the ingredients in a tangia. Seal the top with foil, and cook in the hammam oven for around 6 hours.

With our thanks to Gail Leonard at Fez Food. Contact Gail to find out about foodie tours of the medina, including cooking your own tanjia.

See our complete list of Moroccan recipes here : The View from Fez Recipe List


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Im a muslim girl nice entry love t knowe bout tanjia recipe