How to Cook a Tagine in the Woods

I suppose this post should, logically, be preceded with another titled “How to Cook a Tagine”. But you know me- I don’t do anything half-assed. I’d never cooked a tagine before, so naturally I made my first one in the woods over twigs and stones.1 Mustapha and I surprised his sisters by whisking them away last Sunday for a picnic in a forested glen by the ocean. After arriving, we spread out a big carpet to sit on, piled up the containers of ingredients, turned on some music, and got to work.2

Step 1: Find twigs.

Step 2: Light the fire and arrange a few large stones around it.

Step 3: Heat oil in the tagine dish.3

Step 4: Assign onion chopping duty to the bravest member of your group.

Step 5: Assign carpet-guarding duty to the most experienced member of the group.

Step 6: Rinse your chicken and toss it in.4

Step 7: Cover and simmer for a few minutes.

Step 8: Stir in your spices.5

Step 9: Add about half the onions.

Step 10: Sprinkle in parsley.

Step 11: Add the other half of the onions.

Step 12: Top with tomatoes and cover. Simmer for at least an hour, or until chicken is done.6

Step 13: Prepare some mint tea while you wait.

Step 14: Eat dessert first. Don’t worry, though. If you prepared properly–as we did–you’ll have at least two more desserts to go.7

Step 15: Drink some more mint tea.

Step 16: Welcome an unexpected visitor to your picnic. Offer him tea, but recognize that not all coleoptera feel the same way about Moroccan mint tea.

Step 17: If you’re very lucky, a member of your group will have remembered her musical instrument. After passing it around for a while, you may want to complete the band with a bucket drum and tin tray tambourine.

Step 18: Chop some green peppers for a salad.

Step 19: Eat the salad.8

Step 20: Ta da! Your tagine is done. Uncover, put out the fire,9 and dig in.

Step 21: Eat your second dessert.10 Have the most experienced member of your group test it for quality control.

Step 22: Run around on the beach for a while.

Step 23: Return to your picnic site to enjoy a well-earned third dessert.

Step 24: Don’t forget to congratulate yourselves and set a date for the next tagine adventure!

  1. Really useful if you’re, you know, hiking through the wilderness with a heavy clay dish and lid. []
  2. In all fairness, Mustapha did most of the actual cooking while I hovered with my camera so I could have photos for this blog post. Documentation is important! I still call that a group effort. []
  3. Both the clay pot and the finished food are called “tagine” so for the sake of clarity I’ll be referring to the receptacle as “tagine dish” and the food as “tagine”. []
  4. Omit step 7 if you are vegetarian/vegan, or if you forgot the chicken. []
  5. I will find out later–for your sake, dear reader–the type and amount of spices used. I saw cumin, paprika, and saffron, but Mustapha may have slipped some others in as well. []
  6. Make sure the bottom of your tagine dish is not getting burnt! []
  7. Seriously. Over the course of a few hours, we had flan, then fruit salad, then cookies. And that’s not even counting all the sugar in the mint tea. []
  8. Tomatoes, green peppers, onions, and parsley with a light vinaigrette. []
  9. This is important. []
  10. In our case, a delicious fruit salad with peaches, fresh-squeezed orange juice, and mint. []

6 Responses

  • Oo oo oo! Looks scrumptious! Is there a fish or vegetarian version? Could it be done with tubers of some kind?

    I love the photo captions. Very funny.

    Besides you, who could successfully play the mandolin?

    At what age do women begin to wear the headscarf? I noticed one of Mustapha’s sisters wasn’t wearing one.

  • Neva: Just hop on a plane and we’ll be there. Heck, *I’ll* sing to you if you come.

    Erin: I’ll be sure to assign chicken washing duty to you when you visit, knowing how you feel about that.

    Josh: Well, aside from the chicken it was vegetarian. I’ve also seen lots of tagines with carrots, raisins, green peppers, and other veggies. I’m sure you could include potatoes, though I’m not sure it’s traditional. Or cauliflower, for that matter.

    Mustapha wasn’t half bad on the mandolin, and I showed Mina a few chords. Women typically start wearing scarves at puberty, I believe. Mina actually was wearing a scarf but took it off since we were just hanging out in our own little group, with few others around. Hope it’s okay with her, though, that I put these photos up.

  • I’m sure we know someone who would appreciate the need for a carpet guard!. You are lucky to have wonderful fresh vegetables available. Delicious photos!

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