07 Jan2007


There are several food scenes from movies that are incredibly romantic. In the remake of the classic film, Sabrina, there is a scene where Julia Ormond takes Harrison Ford to a Moroccan or North African restaurant in New York City and they eat couscous and probably a tagine2tagine of some sort with their hands. Turns out that scene was shot across the street from my sister’s apartment in New York; talk about small world coincidences. Ever since I saw that movie, I have wanted to make a tagine at home. Well, Santa was wise and for Christmas dropped off a stunning, bright red tagine with ceramic conical top and a cast iron base for Marketman. A “tagine” literally translated means a “stew,” and it is a key method of cooking in Morocco. Low heat slowly transforms meats, seafood and vegetables into a flavorful and delicious dish. But tagine also refers to the cooking utensil, most recognized for its conical shape that allows the steam and juices that evaporate to condense on the cooler walls of the ceramic cone then dribble back down into the stew. The top of the ceramic cover is supposed to remain cool enough to hold (haha, nice try, I couldn’t handle the heat and had to use a glove).

So with this new toy to play with, I rushed around the day after Christmas trying to figure out what ingredients I would need for my first ever home-cooked tagine of lamb and vegetables. The key spice mix that I needed was something called Ras el Hanout. tagine3I know, you are probably thinking “good luck, buddy, finding that within a 5 kilometer radius of where you live…” Ras-el-hanout translates into “head of the shop” and it refers to the special spice mixture of a particular spice merchant or shop (mixtures differ slightly from shop to shop), according to The New Guide to Spices, by Sallie Morris. This mix can contain many spices including cinnamon, cardamom, chilli, cumin, coriander seeds, cloves, salt, pepper, turmeric, etc. I was pretty sure I wouldn’t find the mixture in Manila so I decided I would get all the ingredients and possibly make it myself. But a quick trip to Spices ‘n Flavours over at Market!Market! in Fort Bonifacio yielded, you got it, Ras el Hanout in a small jar for PHP 260, if I recall correctly. Yahoo! Apparently hand-carried back from a recent trip to Morocco by the proprietors of this spice shop, it was like finding a little nugget of gold in the back yard. I have purchased many things from this spice shop before, including whole nutmeg, cinnamon sticks, vanilla, fennel seeds, etc. and am thrilled they are around (they also have a branch at the Salcedo Saturday Market). They also have a great selection of special salts and I am told a recently arrived selection of superb olive oils.

At any rate, back at the beach, I chopped up some lamb, potatoes, carrots, onions, zucchini, tomatoes and browned the meat in the tagine base, added the other tagine4vegetables and a stick of cinnamon and lots of paprika and Ras el Hanout and left it for about an hour on low heat simmering away… In the meantime, I made some couscous and when the tagine was done, plated up individual servings of couscous topped with a generaous portion of the lamb tagine. It was terrific! Tender with a very flavorful sauce. The Ras el Hanout gave it that really authentic spice touch and I can tell this is one unusual cooking utensil that will be used again and again. Hmmm, I am even thinking of trying a slow cooked paksiw na lechon in the tagine…but I worry that the vinegar in the recipe will react badly with the cast iron base of the pan. One of the guests for dinner that evening was NOT a lamb eater so we also made a quick shrimp and tomato concoction that was also placed on top of couscous…both dishes were delicious but the slow-cooked lamb tagine possessed far more intense and complex flavors… Now if only I had remembered to get some harissa to have with the tagine!

Spices ‘n Flavours
RR-7 Phase I Street Market!Market!
Fort Bonifacio
T 831.0449 F 833.0905



  1. Maria Clara says:

    Tagine is always served with harisa on the side at Moroccan eateries. It is like condiment-atchara in ours. Harisa is blended roasted pepper, olive oil and some spices. Tagine is a versatile cooking vessel. I once used it to cook my plantain bananas and it captured all the flavors and sweetness of the bananas. I only eat chicken tagine which I like very much. Up to this time my taste buds have problems with lamb.

    Jan 7, 2007 | 6:57 am


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  3. fried-neurons says:

    You’re correct, MM. The suka and the cast iron base will not mix well…

    Jan 7, 2007 | 7:36 am

  4. sam says:

    A.s usual, you dish some really kick-ass foodie posts (am I allowed to say that, MM?)I love cooking with my tagines, and it is really great with lamb and beef dishes. I haven’t tried Ras el Hanout,and P260 for a jar of it is a good price. I go crazy with the harissa powder. I use it as a condiment, mixing it with lots of olive oil and a dash of warm water. I still have a half-pound stash from Marrakesh, scrounged in the summer of ’05. I was in doubt if it will keep, so I bagged and froze some of it. I am unsure, but MM, do you think it it’s a good idea to freeze spice powders? you know, the souks are quite far from here, hehehe ;).

    Jan 7, 2007 | 9:45 am

  5. Marketman says:

    Sam, I am not an expert, but I would guess freezing is better than not in our humid weather. Just make sure the stuff is airtight in several layers of plastic. However, I think a year or two is the max for just about any spice… you gotta get cracking on using up the rest of that harissa! :) When it runs out you have the perfect reason to head back to Marrakesh! Fried Neurons, yup, gotta find a different way to do a slow paksiw…

    Jan 7, 2007 | 10:00 am

  6. Laura says:

    hi MM – thanks for the very informative post about the tangine – another specialty cookware – hope Mylai isn’t reading this – hahaha!

    Jan 7, 2007 | 10:16 am

  7. sam says:

    thank you for tip, MM. By the end of the year,If I end up with leftover harissa from the’05 batch, maybe I’ll just use it to spackle nail holes in my wall. :)just kidding, don’t try this at home. have a great weekend.

    Jan 7, 2007 | 10:30 am

  8. Doddie from Korea says:


    There is a tangine thread in eGullet that is very imformative and contains a wealth of recipes you can try.

    Jan 7, 2007 | 11:31 am

  9. rina says:

    waaaaah! how come Santa didn’t see that in my wish list! i’ve been eyeing the Le Creuset tagine in the shops for a while now but am waiting til I hit the Le Creuset outlet store in Vacaville…there’s a much reasonably priced glazed clay version by Emile Henry and a ceramic and stainless version by All-Clad but i’m a big fan of cast iron cookware. you were obviously much higher up on Santa’s “nice” list MM!

    Jan 7, 2007 | 1:00 pm

  10. sha says:

    you just transported me back to Morocco, I onced worked for a yacht that goes to Morocco for a least 2 trips per season.

    I can happily send you harissa, every French shop carries harissa!!!

    question: Is lamb popular in the Philippines? How much per kilo? and from where they originated?

    Jan 7, 2007 | 11:39 pm

  11. joey says:

    Lucky lucky you! A tagine! I would love to have one :) I love Moroccan flavors and stews. I have to get myself back to Spices n’ Flavors soon :) I got some alder smoked sea salt there that was fantastic!

    Jan 8, 2007 | 12:50 am

  12. Marketman says:

    Doddie, thanks for that tip, will have to look up tagines in the weeks ahead… rina, make “abang” at a post-holiday sale and get yourself a tagine. As much as I love it, it does take up cupboard space! Sha, lamb is not that popular here in Manila, but you can get it. Frankly, I don’t recall how much it is but it is not VERY expensive. Most lamb here comes from Australia which has slightly “gamier” lamb than the American lamb I have tasted… but its still very good… Joey, I hear they have interesting olive oils just arrived in the shop…

    Jan 8, 2007 | 4:51 am

  13. Mila says:

    If you go to the Salcedo branch of Spices/Flavors, Charmaine (I think that’s her first name) will you a taste of all the different oils and salts she’s brought in recently. There are some interesting ones, like the black lava salt which tastes strongly of sulphur (not as bad as you think); plus a taste test of the really amazing Spanish olive oil. I eventually gave in and bought several bottles of Italian olive oil and the Himalayan pink salt.

    Jan 8, 2007 | 11:19 am

  14. Ted says:

    Rina when you head over to vacaville, and if you’re coming from sfo and using 80East, when you reach Redtop wave hi to me ;-)

    I think goat is more popular in PI than lamb. Is there a difference in taste if I try goat meat?

    Jan 9, 2007 | 8:03 am

  15. DADD-F says:

    Another interesting article. Pero, obviously, huli na naman ako sa balita. Are good quality tagines avaiable in Manila? How much do they cost?


    Jan 31, 2007 | 12:31 pm

  16. Marketman says:

    DADD-F, my tagine was purchased at Bacchus at the Shangrila Hotel Makati. It is a Le Creuset and I think very good quality. It was a Christmas present so I don’t know how much it cost…

    Jan 31, 2007 | 1:02 pm

  17. Gener says:

    Im very much fond of these MOROCCAN FOOD or we called “COUS-COUS AL MAGHREBIA” Its very nice to eat together with “SHORBA” and later drink the “Shai al magherb” which will make all eating perfect. I used to eat it with my family every week end at my farmhouse in MELOUDATE, WAZAN. that is 150kms from rabat and 135kms from tangier, the original source of cous-cous….

    Mar 23, 2009 | 4:15 pm


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