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When Christmas came last year, it felt like more of a jump scare than the excited holiday festivities as my previous years experiences. I realized I had no gifts or decorations or even decided which cookies I wanted to make! Coming from Stellenbosch, there aren’t many students decorating their apartments with Christmas lights (I say that sarcastically- we’re all too broke for lights), this means that you spend most of December with no decorations to get you in the festive spirit. I had focused my end of year on slaying my exams, organizing a new apartment and planning graduation. 10 December was the end of my planning tunnel- Graduation Day. By 11 December, my body went into red alert shut down mode and I just wanted to hibernate. Wake up 24 December, you have no gifts or Christmas spirit. After a quick shop with my fiancé and trying not to murder every shopper that got in our way, I had a couple gifts and we were good to go.

Thinking the chocolate truffles we had got for our family were kick-ass gifts, we were smug. Getting to the family lunch, the gifts came out and our truffles lost their kick-assedness. My lovely Gran got me the most gorgeous tagine I had been eyeing for years from Poetry. As soon as I got home I started planning what I wanted to make in this marvelous device.

Tagines are nifty because you throw all your ingredients into it and leave it in the oven for hours then, with almost no effort, you come out with the most incredible dish.  I thought I had made enough for 5. After the veggies reduced in size- maybe enough for 4. After the hourly “I need to see how it’s coming along” tastes- there was enough for 3. When my fiancé got a taste, I knew that third portion had been claimed.

Give this one a try and if you don’t end up having to wrestle someone to get to the last spoonful, I’ll be surprised.

Beef & butternut tagine

Serves: 2 large portions

Cooking time: 3-4 hours

Prep time: 25 mins

Ingredients:

  • 500g beef (I used tenderized steak but stewing beef would work great)
  • 1 onion
  • 3 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 3 fresh dates
  • 1 large carrot
  • 100g butternut
  • 100g eggplant
  • 2 large Italian tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon celery salt
  • 300ml water

Method:

  1. Heat the olive oil in a pan. Slice the onions and fry them until golden. Place them in the bottom of the tagine.
  2. Cut your beef into cubes and, in the same pan you used to fry the onions, fry the beef until browned on the outside. Do this in portions if necessary so you don’t overcrowd the pan. Place the beef on top of the onions in the tagine.
  3. Cut all your veggies into chunks and place those on top of the beef. Peel the skin off the garlic clove and place it anywhere in the tagine. Cut the dates in half, take the pips out and place them on top.
  4. In a cup, mix the remaining spice ingredients with water and pour the mixture into the tagine. If you’d like it to be very saucy, add more water. Keep in mind that the tagine is designed for little evaporation to occur so don’t put too much liquid in. Place the tagine in the oven and heat it to 180 degrees*. Leave to cook for 3 hours. The longer you leave it to cook, the more tender and delicious the dish becomes, so you could even leave it to cook for the whole day.
  5. Take it out of the oven half way and taste (only one bite!) and adjust seasoning if needed.
  6. Serve this deliciousness with cous cous. Try finish first to get the last serving.

*My tagine is from Poetry and made in Portugal. This is a glazed tagine which is not the way a traditional Moroccan tagine is made. However, it makes my life a whole lot easier because mine is dishwasher and oven safe. If you have a clay or ceramic traditional Moroccan tagine, read up on how to use it safely as it can crack if exposed to heat too quickly.

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