Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Moroccan lamb and aubergine tajine

There is something very magical about preparing a Moroccan tajine. It’s an almost therapeutic process; building up layer upon layer of flavour and spices to create a dish with rich complexity. But that’s not what I believe makes it so special; the magic lies in the vessel (also called a tajine) which is traditionally used to prepare the recipe – a clay terracotta bottom and dome-shaped lid designed for no other purpose. And that of course only serves to give its preparation a sense of occasion.

The tajine is designed to allow long, slow cooking so that the meat falls off the bone and the traditional earthenware clay pots infuse a rustic flavour to the dish. The conical lid allows pressure to build up inside – like a pressure cooker. The hollow knob on top of the lid was an old-fashioned way of keeping cooking time. Water was put into the knob and when this evaporated the tajine was ready. So clever.

Spicing is an intricate art to try and master when making any Moroccan food but getting just three principles right will get you quite far; the first is that spices are best when bought whole and ground fresh. Remember that ground spices have a very short shelf life, so if your bottles are a bit dusty, it’s time to ditch them. If you’re hesitant, think about the difference between the bite of freshly ground black pepper versus the dullness of the preground stuff. A spice or coffee grinder, and even a pestle and mortar, are a great investment if you want your dishes full of flavour.

Apart from the spices, this recipe has a bit of a twist; rather than using chunks of lamb, the meat is minced, spiced and rolled into kefta then wrapped in chargrilled aubergine and simmered in a tomato and date sauce. A swirl of cool tzatziki and a sprinkling of pine nuts is all that stands between you and a whirlwind tastebud trip to Marrakesh!

Moroccan lamb and aubergine tajine with tzatziki
Serves 4

2T chopped fresh coriander
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2t freshly chopped chilli
2T Moroccan rub spice mix
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
600g beef or lamb mince

Tomato date sauce
Olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tins chopped tomatoes
2t Moroccan rub spice mix
4 fresh dates, chopped
dried chilli, to taste
4 long aubergines, thinly sliced
2T chopped fresh parsley

To serve
Mediterranean Delicacies Tzatziki
Toasted pine nuts

Make the keftas by mixing all the ingredients together and shaping them into sausages. Heat a little oil in a pan and brown them on all sides (they don’t need to be cooked through) and set aside. For the sauce, heat a little olive oil and sauté the onions and garlic until soft. Add the tomatoes, spices, dates and chilli and simmer gently.
Sprinkle the aubergine slices with salt and olive oil and place under a hot grill until golden brown and soft. Wrap each kefta in the aubergine slices and place the parcels into the sauce. Simmer, covered for 15 minutes. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve with couscous, minted yoghurt, pomegranate rubies and toasted pine nuts.

TIP To make your own Moroccan spice blend, mix 1/2t each of ground cinnamon, cumin, fennel, nutmeg and paprika and store in a sealed jar.

*This post has been sponsored by Mediterranean Delicacies who make a fabulous range of yummy pesto, dips, phyllo pastry, olives and other delicious Med-style goodies. 

{GIVEAWAY} Mediterranean Delicacies are giving away TWO Morphy Richards Induction Cookers! Follow this link to enter their latest competition.

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  1. What a great winter's recipe on a beautiful blog!

  2. I've always been curious about the tajine. I love lamb so this will be a fun recipe to try. Thanks for sharing.