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El Lahm el M'qali

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    Posted: 09 July 2010 at 14:05
Note: As time passes and we learn more, it becomes easier to spot areas there improvements can be made. In the original recipe from the opening post of this thread, the ingredients and general concepts are good, but the execution by Time/Life's test kitchen seem to need some modification, both to keep the recipe traditional, and for improving the quality and flavour of the end product. scroll down through this thread in order to see some of the ways that you can do this.

El Lahm el M'qali
Lamb With Lemons And Olives



From Time/Life's Foods of the World - a Quintet of Cuisines, 1970:
 
Quote To serve 4:

1/2 cup olive oil
A pinch of ground ginger 
1/4 teaspoon pulverized saffron threads or ground saffron
1.5 teaspoons salt
2 pounds boneless lamb shoulder, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 cups finely chopped onions 
1/4 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
6 sprigs fresh coriander (cilantro)
2 salted lemons, separated into quarters, or 2 fresh lemons, cut lengthwise into quarters and seeded
16 small green olives
 
In a heavy 12-inch sauté pan, stir the olive oil, ginger, saffron and salt together. Add the lamb and turn the pieces about to coat them evenly. Pour in 3 cups of water, then add the onions, garlic, coriander and lemons. The liquid should almost cover the lamb; if necessary, add up to one more cup of water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low, cover tightly, and simmer for about 1 hour, or until the lamb is tender and shows no resistance when pierced with the point of a small knife. With a slotted spoon, transfer the lamb to a plate.

Bring the sauce remaining in the pan to a boil over high heat and cook briskly, uncovered, until it thickens slightly and is reduced to about 3 cups. Discard the coriander. Return the lamb and the liquid that has accumulated around it to the pan, add the olives and, stirring frequently, simmer for 4 to 5 minutes, until heated through. Taste for seasoning. Transfer the contents of the skillet to a heated bowl and serve at once.


This Morroccan dish, a tajine, (lamb with dried lemons and olives) is one I've been wanting to make for many months now. Originally encouraged to begin the process by Dave's post on Morrocan Preserved Lemons, then my reading of the Foods of the World series on the cooking of the Maghreb, I started the process by making my own Morrocan Dried Lemons. This was months ago, and I'm finally getting down to it!

This passage is from Lahcen's Morroccan Cooking:

Quote Moroccan cuisine is considered one of the most important cuisines in the world. One of the reasons for its importance is its remarkable diversity of influences. In Moroccan dishes, one can trace the country’s long history of colonizers and immigrants who have left their mark in more than one way. The cuisine of the first inhabitants, the Berbers, still exists today in the staple dishes like tagine and couscous. The Arab invasion brought new spices, nuts and dried fruits, and the sweet and sour combinations that we see in dishes like tagine with dates and lamb. The Moors introduced olives, olive juice and citrus while the Jewish-Moors left behind their sophisticated preserving techniques that we see in the frequent use of preserved lemons, pickles, etc. The Ottoman Empire introduced barbeque (kebabs) to Moroccan cuisine. The French colony, although short-lived compared to reign of some of these other empires, left behind a culture of cafes, pastries, and even wine. Over time, cooks in the kitchens of the four royal cities (Fez, Marrakesh, Meknes, and Rabat) have developed and perfected the dishes that blend each of these distinct tastes. Every Moroccan dish has its place in society and varies with the market, the season, and the region.

Tagine, also spelled tajine, is an historically Berber dish. It is a stew made of meats and vegetables and traditionally cooked in a conical clay pot to allow the steam to rise, condense and drip back down to the stew. Tagines are traditionally prepared on top of a portable clay majmar (much cheaper than a stove!) under which people put hot coals. Practically anything can be turned into a tajine: meat, chicken, fish, vegetables and some even make it with meat and fruits. Some typical tagine dishes include lamb with dates, lamb with raisins or prunes and almonds, chicken with olives and preserved lemon, chicken with dried apricots, and meatballs (or ketfa) with tomatoes and eggs. Of course, there exist more varieties than this. Every part of the country has its regional tagine dish and different ways of preparing it.

Couscous, known in Morocco as seksu, is a traditional Berber dish as well. It is a dish made of fine semolina and topped with meat and vegetables. Couscous is typically made with seven vegetables. To make couscous in the traditional way takes a lot of time and effort. Women separate and mix the grains of semolina by using the palm of their hands and salt water, a process that takes one hour for the semolina alone. Women in some parts of the country still prepare their couscous this way, but most families buy it in packages. Friday is the day of prayer, so it is a Moroccan tradition all over the country to celebrate this day with a couscous meal. Following the custom of eating food with their hands, Moroccans normally eat couscous by rolling it into little balls and popping it into their mouths. The popping motion is important, because if performed inaccurately, the ball will crumble before it makes it to your mouth.


I don't think we'll be popping couscous balls into our mouths for supper, but the technique was nice to know.

I began by cutting up half the leg - about 3 lbs worth - into two-inch cubes. Diced up 2 onions. Left the fat on the lamb as this was going to provide the fat for its browning. Then, into a hot cast iron skillet it went. I let it cook until the moisture pretty much was gone and real browning began to happen.

As the cubes got browned they were removed and put into the crock pot container, leaving the remainder to continue browning. Finally all were done and in the crock;  then, a teaspoon of powdered ginger and ground coriander were sprinkled over it.

I then drained all but maybe 1 teaspoon of the lamb grease, and then deglazed it with a half cup of water. Once the bits were all loosened, I added maybe 2 teaspoons olive oil and the onions, garlic, half the chopped cilantro and a pinch of saffron. Sautéed that until the onions were soft, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, I took 2 dried lemons from my curing jar and, following Dave's recommendations, rinsed them well ~ three iterations under cool tap water. Due to the salt content, I did not add any salt to the dish as the recipe called for. I figured the lemons would provide all the salt needed, and was proven correct. Thanks, Dave!

By the time the onions were ready, I added 3 cups water to them, stirred well and poured the mixture onto the lamb in the crock. I then added the remaining chopped cilantro and saffron and mixed well. Finally, I added the 2 lemons torn into wedges, the jar of garlic-stuffed green olives, and put the crock to cook on high.

It'll cook on high for an hour, then get turned to low for another hour. After that....supper is ready when we want it... I'll add the black olives towards the end, and make the couscous for the side later. We also have pita bread and hummus to round out our Moroccan Family Feast Adventure!

So far it smells unbelievably meaty and delicious, and has the whole family cruising by the crock every now and then to get a good look and closer whiff of the scent filling the kitchen. At this point everyone is hungrily looking forward to the international adventure.

(later)

The crockpot is very much like a tajine in the way it cooks...allowing the steam to condense on the lid, then come running back down to bathe the food for perfect tenderness.

After an hour or so on high, I turned it down to low, then warm, as the afternoon went by. Just before suppertime, I ladled as much liquid as I could from the crock and put it in a pot to reduce.

I Boiled it until it was about half to two-thirds reduced, then used a skimmer to remove all the fat from the liquid before returning it to the meat.

Meanwhile, I prepared the couscous and the table. With a little bit of lemon-balm and basil from the garden the scent was heavenly...rich and hearty yet light and lemony all at once....

The finished dish was beautiful, and we couldn't wait to dig in! I served pita breads and store-bought hummus to round out the meal. The kids got a kick out of learning that this meal is traditionally eaten with one's fingers, and loved the idea of tossing couscous balls into their mouths. Of course, they had to try that! Thankfully no one missed and all food landed where it was supposed to!

The whole family liked the dish a lot. The only change recommended was to lessen lemons from 2 to 1 in the crock, but that is all. A complete success!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 July 2010 at 09:39
excellent! it sounds like an incredible, true north-african feast! i know you've been wanting to make this one for quite a while.
 
a complete success all-around, from what i can tell!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Hoser Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 July 2010 at 12:32
I am at a loss for expletives....John , you took the kids on a major culinary sojurn today. I'm drooling just thinking about it, and thrilled that your preserved lemons worked out. High five my friend!Thumbs Up
Go ahead...play with your food!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote barry Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 June 2011 at 02:24

Was in Agadir two summers ago... brings it all back. aromatic tasty food

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pitrow Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 July 2012 at 10:36
I would love it, but pretty much the only things allowed to be eaten in my house are: boneless skinless chicken breast, beef, some kinds of pork, and occasionally I can sneak some buffalo in.

My wife has lots of phobias when it comes to food. She even freaked out when I tried to keep the tongue from the cow we bought this year. I wanted to make lingua tacos, but she wasn't havin' none of it! lol. And eating anything that's cute and fuzzy: rabbit, lamb, veal, even venison; is pretty much a no-go around here. I keep working on getting her to expand her culinary circle, but it's a slow process.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 July 2012 at 11:40
Originally posted by Mike Mike wrote:

My wife has lots of phobias when it comes to food. She even freaked out when I tried to keep the tongue from the cow we bought this year. I wanted to make lingua tacos, but she wasn't havin' none of it! lol. And eating anything that's cute and fuzzy: rabbit, lamb, veal, even venison; is pretty much a no-go around here. I keep working on getting her to expand her culinary circle, but it's a slow process.
 
My wife is the same way - I have a few food hang-ups myself (organ/offal/some variety meats come to mind), so I don't give her too much grief, but if I want to try a project, I make it and then prepare something else for her. I make enough so that she can sample it, if she changes her mind, but she rarely does. Occasionally, she is surprised and finds out that she likes something new. Tongue
 
With this, the price of lamb is prohibitive, but I am willing to bet that vension would be good. I intend to try it sooner rather than later as my second tajine dish, after I make Tajine Msir Zitun. Thumbs Up
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pitrow Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 July 2012 at 12:03
yeah the problem is my wife won't even let it in the house. I told my friend that I'd buy some meat rabbits that her daughter had raised for 4H or FFA (don't remember which), but my wife freaked out. Thumbs Down  oh well. Been a while since I've had hasenpfeffer and seems like it's going to be even longer still before I get to have it again.

Oh, and about a month or so ago we had a big client come into town and the company took him out to dinner. I ordered Cunard au Vin (wine braised duck leg). She almost didn't talk to me for an hour after she found out that's what I ordered, and she wasn't even there!!! Smile lol. oh well. it's all good. I have been successful in getting her to try some new things, but it's a slow process.

Sorry for the thread side-track.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 July 2012 at 12:13
lol - no worries, mike - it does open up some good points, and i can definitely sympathise with your situation. looking at it one way, we're lucky to live in a country that has such a bounty and variety of food, so that our wives can be choosy! but on the other hand, i wonder sometimes if my wife knows where a lot of the food she thinks is "acceptable" actually comes from - compared to some things i've seen, i'd take local, home-butchered rabbit or venison anytime!
 
as for hasenpfeffer, you can make it with chicken or turkey, in the absence of rabbit:
 
 
not quite the same, of course, but it might be a gateway into her trying a familiar meat in a new way.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote MarkR Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 February 2013 at 13:46
Stopped in to Restaurant Depot on my way home today. The carry bonless Halal leg of lamb for $4.89lb, I bought one. Much less painful than my last purchase.

So, "El Lahm el M'qali" should be on the menu!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote africanmeat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 February 2013 at 02:27
Sounds great mark i will wait for it patiently.


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote MarkR Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 February 2013 at 10:37
Well, I have a dilemma when it comes time to cook. I was thinking about using a cast iron Dutch Oven (antique), but I also have aluminum Dutch Ovens, a copper clad wok and a large crock pot.

I don't see any reason to not use the CI Dutch Oven but if someone thinks otherwise let me know. No I do not have a Tajine, and do not think I can find one locally, will look though.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 February 2013 at 10:40
Mark - no worries! You can do it without an actual tajine cooking vessel. Any of your dutch ovens will do the job just fne - and if you take a look here:

http://foodsoftheworld.activeboards.net/tajine-sans-tajine-the-easy-diy-approach_topic2171.html

You can see where one of our members from Belgium provided some pointers for making a tajine without a tajine.

As I said - no worries, but they are handy little items of cookware. I picked one up at World Market for under 20$, and love it:

http://www.worldmarket.com/search.do?query=tagine
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote MarkR Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 February 2013 at 10:45
Tas, so do you just put the tajine on the burner and cook?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Margi Cintrano Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 February 2013 at 10:52

Mark,

 
Tajines ( Berber spelling = Tagine ) are placed in the oven, on slow low oven temperature with a conical earthenware lid ...
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 February 2013 at 10:53
Mark, if you have a "flame tamer" or heat diffuser, you should be able to - also, if your stovetop is one of the new glass-topped induction ones, it should PROBABLY be ok on low or medium low. The World Market website says that they are stovetop safe with a heat diffuser, so chances are things would be fine.
 
But I will caveat this by saying I don't know for sure. In North Africa, they use them with no problem, but since a replacement for me would be 300 miles away, I'm reluctant to take the chance, until my heat diffuser arrives (hopefully later this week). If you manage to get one with a heavy, thick bottom, this probably isn't an issue.
 
What I did, and it worked fine, was brown the meat etc. in a cast iron pan, then assembled everything in the tajine and put it in a NOT pre-heated oven, then turned the oven on (300 degrees) and allowed it it to gradually warm up. Because of this, I extended the cooking time appropriately. Also, keep in mind that the tajine cookware is seasoned or "cured" before its first use, to make it durable and able to withstand temperatures.
 
I think as it gets used, you can take more risks, but this was my first attempt, so I was very carefeul. I took a lot of notes etc. and you can read about the experience here:
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote MarkR Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 February 2013 at 10:54
Tas, I just checked - there are 5 World Markets in Florida...none within 150miles of St Pete.
I'll prolly order one though, they look look like a cool tool!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 February 2013 at 13:05
Mark, if you consider that tajines (the dishes) are, essentially, braises, that should answer your questions about other pots.
 
In short, your Dutch ovens will work just fine.
 
Tajines (the vessel) look simple. But they are highly specialized pots, designed so that vaper from the dish condenses rapidly on the relatively cool top, and rains back down on the food.
 
In North Africa they are used on special ovens designed for them. Think of a charcoal chimney, with the tagine sitting on the mouth. That's the basic idea. I have a replica 18th century braizier that works perfectly for that purpose.
 
As to the stove top. In theory, unglazed tajines are perfectly safe, used over low heat, but fully glazed ones are not,  because they are subject to cracking. As somebody once said, however, in theory, theory and reality are the same; in reality they're not. I've used both glazed and unglazed tajines on the gas stove with no ill effects.
 
The trick, as Ron notes with in-the-oven use, is to start cold over very low heat. That way the clay and glazes adjust equally to changes in temperature.
 
Even so, if you're using a glazed tajine on the stovetop, particularly a non-gas one, a heat diffuser is recommended.
 
One other thing; If you go shopping for a tajine, there are two types: cooking tagines and serving tajines. As a general rule, the more highly decorated the tajine the more likely it's for serving only.
 
Just make sure the one you order is designed for cooking.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 March 2013 at 13:11
Originally posted by HistoricFoodie HistoricFoodie wrote:

In North Africa they are used on special ovens designed for them. Think of a charcoal chimney, with the tagine sitting on the mouth.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03 March 2013 at 18:23
Making this for supper tonight, using venison as a substitute for lamb. No pictures - my oldest son Josef put it together because I am quite under the weather today with some sort of cold-like virus that is much worse than "just a cold." Might try to get a photo as it comes out of the oven.
 
After consulting privately with Brook, I elected not to follow the method or the procedure in the opening post, which is an "adapted for American kitchens" procedure. Instead, based on our conversation, I had Joe assemble all the of the ingredients in my tajine, then I had him add water to a level of halfway up the ingredients, then put it in a cold oven and heat the oven up to 300 degrees. After half an hour or so, we brought the heat up to 325.
 
We didn't modify any of the ingredients, except to substitute venison for lamb and cut the cilantro in half.
 
More later....
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote MarkR Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03 March 2013 at 19:35
Cooking this now in my newly-purchased tajine - I should have used the fire pot base that I also purchased, but didn't.

There are definitely a couple of issues with the recipe itself, but it smells awesome!
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