Saturday, January 15, 2011

Tangia (Slow-Cooked Beef with Herbs)

Kites flying in the Kuwait desert aren't beef stew, I know, but my photo mojo is currently at zero, what with the move and all, especially the anxiety and stress with attempting to export my cat out of Kuwait. I have a stop in Dubai and all animals flown into Dubai have to go as cargo, so once I land I will have to go pick up Umberto, clear him through customs, then check him in as excess baggage - if I can even do that. My next stop is in London and everyone - the woman helping me with all of this, the man at Emirates SkyCargo and the airlines - are worried because usually pets are flown cargo into Heathrow and, what with England's strict quarantine rules, there is a possibility that Umberto might be whisked away to a 6-month quarantine, while I'm thinking, seriously? I am the first person to attempt to travel through Heathrow with a pet in transit?

But enough of my problems: let's discuss this amazing beef stew. I love slow-cooked meat because, as long as you keep it moist, it's almost impossible to screw it up. The meat literally melts in your mouth, all the flavors blend together to make even a vegetarian drool and you wonder why you want to start a diet and give up something so delicious. Harissa, a hot chili paste, should be easy to find in many stores, though be careful because are hotter than others. The 1/2 teaspoon used, however, adds a gentle heat rather than overpowering fire. The recipe calls for a cooking time of 3 1/2 hours, but I couldn't resist the smell after 2 1/2; luckily, my beef was still like butter. Sop up the delicious juices with pieces of your freshly baked kesra.

Now off to raise my anxiety level to %180 while I try to work out my pet travel woes. Enjoy!

The Food of Morocco

2lb (1 kilo) chuck steak or boneless beef shin
1 1/2 brown onions, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2tsp ras el hanout spice mix*
1/2tsp harissa* (or to taste) or1/4tsp cayenne pepper
1/4tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 rope tomatoes
1 1/2 preserved lemons or finely grated rind of one lemon
2tsp honey
1tbsp chopped cilantro
2tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsely

1. Trim the beef and cut into 1-inch pieces. Place beef in a deep casserole dish along with the onion, garlic, oil, ras el hanout, harissa and black pepper. Season with salt.

2. Toss the meat with the marinade. Preheat the oven to 275F (the meat will marinate while you prepare the remainder of the recipe and your oven heats.)

3. Halve the tomatoes crossways and squeeze out the the seeds. Coarsely grate the tomatoes down to the skins, grating them straight into the casserole. Discard the skins. (I used canned tomatoes because delicious ripe tomatoes don't exist in Kuwait and squeezed them right into the casserole.)

4. Rinse the preserved lemons and remove the pulp and membranes. Chop the rind into chunks, reserving some for garnish, and add to the meat along with the honey, cilantro and 1 tablespoon of parsley. (Conversely, add grated lemon straight into casserole.)

5. Stir well, then cover and cook in the oven for 3 1/2 hours. Juices from the meat should keep the dish moist, but check after 1 1/2 hours of cooking and add a little water if necessary.

6. When meat is very tender, transfer to a serving dish, scatter over the reserved lemon rind (if using) and garnish with the remaining parsley.

Ras el hanout

A spice blend used expansively in Moroccan cuisine can be purchased online (and probably at some specialty stores, depending on where you live) or you can make your own. Recipes vary, but this is the one included in my cookbook. I divided it half for use in the tangia.

1/2tsp ground cloves
1/2tsp ground cayenne pepper
2tsp ground allspice
2tsp ground cumin
2tsp ground ginger
2tsp ground turmeric
2tsp ground black pepper
2tsp ground cardamom
3tsp ground cinnamon
3tsp ground coriander
2 nutmegs, freshly grated (or 6tsp ground nutmeg)

Mix together and store in a cool, dark place.

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