Warm aromatic spices along with low-and-slow cooking take this deeply savory Moroccan beef and sweet potato stew over the top in flavor. Similar to a North African tagine, there are two main distinctions: 1) this stew is made in a dutch oven rather than a tagine vessel, 2) the fruit typical to a tagine (usually dried apricots) has been left as optional to comply with a lower sugar diet.
What is a Tagine?
A tagine is a Berber (primarily Algerian or Moroccan) dish named after the type of earthenware pot in which it is cooked. Tagine vessels are primarily used to slow-cook savory stews and vegetable dishes. Because the domed or cone-shaped lid of the tagine traps steam and returns the condensed liquid to the pot, a minimal amount of water is needed to cook meats and vegetables, and is therefore a practical method of cooking in areas where water supplies are limited. The traditional method of cooking with a tagine is to place the tagine over coals, resulting from large bricks of charcoal, purchased specifically for their ability to stay hot for hours.
Ingredients Typical of Moroccan Stews (Tagines)
Spices & Herbs:
Common spices in tagines include: ginger, cumin, cinnamon, coriander, saffron, turmeric, chili and paprika. Common herbs include mint and parsley. Tagines are generally slow cooked for several hours, allowing the spice combinations to meld into a sweet and savory warmth that is delightful.
The spice combination for tagines is quite varied. Some recipes suggest a pre-mixed blend called “Rasel Hanout” . It is a blend of the best spices a vendor has in their shop. The mixture varies, but it generally includes the spices noted above in this post, along with perhaps some dried galangal, aniseed, or orris root.
Fruit & Vegetables
A sweet and sour combination is common in tagine dishes and tagines will often include dates, apricots or prunes. Vegetables often include garbanzo beans and root vegetables such as sweet potatoes, carrots or turnips.
Tagines can be an excellent vegetarian dish, and are frequently made without any meat. If you do want to add meat, it is common to include lamb, chicken, pork or beef in these stews. Since the recipe below is a Moroccan beef and sweet potato stew, I used beef of course.
If you want the best flavor from a beef stew, use a chuck roast that you have trimmed and cubed yourself rather than the stew meat sold in grocery stores. Meat labeled “beef stew meat” is often bits and pieces of a variety of cuts that can result in different meat textures within the stew. Avoid chunks of steak because it tends to turn stringy and dry after prolonged cooking.
Slow Cooker Adaptable?
I made this recipe in a dutch oven where I browned the meat first, removed it and sautéed the onions and spices in the meat fat, and then returned the meat and added the other ingredients to the pot. You could certainly adapt this recipe to a slow cooker. Just make sure and brown or sear the meat and saute the onions and spices first before adding everything to the crock pot. It will add a lot to the flavor profile.
Moroccan Beef and Sweet Potato Stew
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 1/2 Lbs stewing meat chuck roast trimmed and cubed
- 1 tsp cardamom ground
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon ground
- 1 tsp cumin ground
- 1 tsp ginger ground
- 1/2 to 1 tsp chili pepper ground
- 1 large yellow onion chopped
- 5 cloves garlic minced
- 28 oz Diced tomatoes
- 3 cups beef broth or vegetable stock or chicken stock
- 2 medium sweet potatoes Peeled and cut into 1-2" chunks
- 15 oz canned garbanzo beans (aka chick peas)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 4 oz. dried apricots diced (optional – not on slow carb diet)
- 3/4 cups prunes pitted and chopped (optional – not on slow carb diet)
- garnishes: chopped scallions Can also include toasted almonds or zested orange peel as garnish
- Heat oil in dutch oven over medium-high heat until almost smoking. Add meat and sear or brown, tossing occasionally to get sear on all sides (about 5 minutes). While meat is browning, grind and measure out the spices (cardamom through chili pepper) and place in small bowl.
- Remove meat to platter when finished browning and add onions to the pot. Saute the onions over medium heat 3-5 minutes until translucent and then add garlic for 1 minute (don’t burn garlic). Add ground spices and stir into the onion-garlic mix. Saute spice-onion mix for 1-2 minutes.
- Add the meat back into the pot, along with the tomatoes and broth and bring to a boil. Turn the pot to a low simmer and cover. Simmer for 1 hour.
- Add the sweet potatoes to the pot and simmer for another 1/2 hour or until sweet potatoes are fork tender. (if using prunes and/or apricots, add them at this point)
- Add garbanzo beans, salt and pepper and simmer for another 15 minutes.
- To serve: garnish with scallions, orange zest or toasted almonds
- Add prunes and/or dried apricots to the pot when adding sweet potatoes
- Serve with couscous (this is how it is traditionally served)
- Add harissa sauce as garnish at the end, or place on the table for people to add their own.