Vegan MoFo day 11: A meal from the medina

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Chadwiko and I tend to take an approach that can only be described as ‘well, while we’re there…’ when planning travel. This is how our planned trip to Germany at the end of this year has somehow reached across Europe to Spain, and finally ended up taking us to Morocco. Maybe growing up in Australia is to blame- when the nearest major town is an eight hour drive away, the novelty of being able to cross entire countries in that time is definitely something to be exploited to its fullest whenever possible.

When listening to the stories of friends who have travelled in Morocco, one vital piece of information stood out for me- in Marrakesh’s Jemaa el-Fnaa square, the country’s finest delicacies and most questionable treats are available as street food. And the most authentic tagines don’t come from fancy restaurants, but from hawkers in busy, smoky stalls.

Given our love of street food, this prospect was too much to pass up. And, admittedly impatiently, we couldn’t wait for our Moroccan fix.

Moroccan vegetable tagine with almond couscous

I dragged out Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian for the tagine recipe. I bought the book about six months ago after crumbling in the face of an onslaught of recommendations, but hadn’t made anything from it. Excuses, excuses- but it’s an intimidating book. Almost 800 pages and with very few photos, it’s hard to know where to start. The use of English translations for the names of foreign dishes also detracts a bit- a dish called ‘lentils in a sauce’ is hardly enticing. But this dish was a great start.

I made a couple of modifications to the recipe- namely, I used a casserole dish rather than an authentic tagine (why buy a Chinese-made tagine here for upwards of $60 when I could get a real one for a fraction of the price in a few months’ time?), and I doubled the spice mix. The introduction to the recipe advised that it was a mild tagine. I’m not the hugest fan of ‘mild’, and this definitely better suited my tastes with the doubled spices. This was super flavourful for such a simple dish to put together (so simple that I, subtly and while nudging him in the ribs, let Chadwiko know that he could probably make it).

I served this with some quick couscous with flaked almonds, and concluded that this might just be the perfect weeknight meal. There’s a lot to look at in the Marrakesh medina, so it’s little wonder that the resident hawkers would want to get their tagines slow-cooking, leaving them plenty of time to take in the sights.

In preparation for our trip, we should probably pick up a phrase book and try to learn a few words in French and Arabic to get us by- but I think I’ll be fine as long as I can say ‘vegetable tagine, please’.

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