Tarifa is one of the windiest towns in the world, home to windsurfers and a whole host of eccentric folk (apparently the relentless wind sends people mad!) Most places in Spain have three winds, Tarifa has five! It is located directly across the med from Tangiers, an equally nutty Moroccan town.
Tarifa has long been regarded as a great example of the merging of all things Hispanic and African, not to mention, there is an awesome band named Radio Tarifa who rock our worlds (see below), they’re also a mix of Moroccan, flamenco and other beats. Really when you get down to this coastline, cultural borders blur into one hectic mix of all things med. There is an ancient feel in the air around here, Romans, Greeks, Punics, Carthagens…… it makes sense that people who want to live in such beautiful climes and always have done.
I learnt to make good cous cous and tagine on the open fires and portable gas stoves of Morocco, in garages, date plantations and even the odd oasis. Moroccans are like Italians when it comes to their cooking, namely, don’t mess with it brother!!!! Keep it the way it has always been and momma knows best et al. Which is cool, makes things easier. I cooked a tagine in the Atlas Mountains and added beetroot to the mix and then spent the rest of the evening in some form of food induced exile. They turned their nose up at my meddling with the ancient, alchemical laws of the tagine. Seems I haven’t quite learnt my lesson!
I have had a good meddle here. I love to add a little tahini to the mix to add some richness and paprika is a superb local delicacy that creeps into most things I cook over here on the Costa Calida. The rest is all fine, fresh, fresh, med veg and fistfuls of cumin from the markets of Marrakech to get things flowing in the right direction.
The secret here is a thick and rich sauce to start with and gently steaming the other veggies over that. This makes this dish brilliantly tasty and the veg chunks are cooked until perfectly tender and succulent. The nature of tagine recipes is wide and uber-complex, but this one is straight forward and mighty fine. A tagine is just the pot’s name really, it’s unique conical shape, but it’s what goes into it that matters.
I serve this with fluffy cous cous in a tagine dish, there is plenty of gorgeous sauce to make the cous cous nice and moist. My tagine dish has a very sticky base, otherwise I would cook the sauce in the tagine base and then whack the lid on. That would be the authentic route, but I have used a pan here to make this easier and avoiding sticky situatioGod, I love Morocco, the dunes of the Sahara and the peaks of the Rif mountains are just a hop, skip and ferry away from here and it is calling my name in capital letters. It’s such a massive empty place, full of amazing people and tasty treats. This tagine takes me back……
2 med onions (finely sliced), 6 cloves garlic (finely chopped), 3 inch cube of ginger (finely chopped), 5 big fat plum tomatoes (chopped rough), 1 courgette, 1 large red pepper, ½ large butternut squash, 4 large carrots (all veg chopped into large chunks), 4 teas ground cumin, 3 teas paprika, 1 teas cinnamon, 1 teas ground coriander, ½ handful roughly chopped dried apricots, 6 dates (finely chopped), 1 heaped tbs dark tahini (dark has a more intense flavour, but regular tahini is fine), 2 cups good veg stock, s + p to taste
350g cous cous (for three), 1 pint good veg stock, 1 teas cumin seeds,
Get a nice good glug of olive oil hot (high heat here) in a large saucepan, pop your onions in and cook until soft and going golden, add your garlic and ginger and your spices. Stir well and often, get it all combined nicely, then add your chopped tomatoes and stir in. It should all be smelling amazing and cooking down well. Taste and adjust accordingly. When the tomatoes have all broken down, 5-10 minutes, add all of your other veggies, stock and dried fruit stir in a little. Stick a lid on it and leave for 30 minutes to cook slowly, no peeking!
When the lid is taken off, you’ll have a gorgeous tagine waiting with plenty of rich sauce to be soaked up by the cous cous.
To cook your cous cous, warm a pan with a little oil and toast your cumin seeds for one minute, then pour in your cous cous and stir well, add some s+p to taste and pour in some freshly boiled water (straight from the kettle is good).
Cover the cous cous with water, 2cm above and then cover tightly with a lod and leave for 20 minutes to cook off the heat. When you lift the lid, fluff the cous cous well with a fork and add a little oil if it needs a little help.
As warm as you can, in a tagine dish preferably. Lay out plenty of cous cous on the base, spoon over plenty of sauce and then scoop on your vegetable tagine. Cover with more sauce and a good drizzle of great olive oil.
We like to eat out of the tagine dish in a communal fashion, pop it in the middle of the table and enjoy with your nearest and dearest, just like in Morocco. We had ours with hummus or a nice garlic yoghurt.
We use tahini in many ways, but here it adds a creamy richness to the tagine without the use of our old friends butter/ cream and the dairy gang, with the added advantage of awesome health benefits and easy digestions. Tahini is full of vitamin B’s, essential for keeping the body ticking over, enhancing metabolism and sorting the immune system out.
Tahini is also rich in calcium and a small blob can contain up to 35% of your required daily intake. Many people believe that tahini boasts the highest levels of calcium in any food!
Here’s the soundtrack to our Tarifan Tagine, the incredible Radio Tarifa: