#ThatTranslatorCanCook Week Fourteen: Moroccan Tagine

This week I decided to dust off the tagine that my husband bought when he came to visit me when I lived in Morocco in 2016 and try my hand at a meat, prune and almond tagine!

I didn’t come across any major translation issues with this text.

One interesting thing was that it appear to be written in the first person of the Moroccan dialect, which does not read well for an English recipe, so I changed it to the imperative.

The word ‘لحم’ (lahm) in Arabic can be used to signify meat generally or red meat more specifically. The recipe called for ‘لحم’ and in this particular case I would suggest that red meat, such as beef or lamb, would be most appropriate, as I’ve never seen a tagine of this sort with chicken or fish. However, in the recipe, I chose to translate this as meat and then add a little footnote about the type of meat in case the reader is not familiar with Moroccan customs.


Tagine pot on an electric hob

Whilst I am aware that tagines are traditionally used over fires or gas stoves, we have an electric oven and, up to this point, have always used our tagines in the oven rather than on the hobs, as we weren’t sure if it was suitable for electric ovens. However, I did some research and found this very useful blogpost, which told me that I could indeed use my tagine on an electric hob as long as a) it was not glazed (it isn’t, as glazed tagines are usually used for serving and not cooking) and b) it had been seasoned (which we did before we first used it). The result was…it didn’t explode or crack! You have to use a heat diffuser underneath it (see below) to protect it and this, coupled with the fact that you need to heat it gradually, meant that it took a very long time to get up to the correct temperature.

A heat diffuser

Once it got to an appropriate temperature, it took quite a long time to actually cook the food, as it was still at a lower temperature than I would normally cook. While this frustrated me (I’m very impatient when it comes to cooking!) it does seem in keeping with the Moroccan temperament that favours relaxing and not worrying about being on time. Overall, it was a succesful first attempt on the hob and I’d be willing to try it again.

Like the first recipe I tried for this challenge, the Moroccan pastilla, there was a lack of description when it came to quantities. In this instance, this meant guessing how many almonds and prunes to use and how much water was needed. The latter was easily resolved by the fact that the tagine couldn’t actually fit that much water in it with all the vegetables! This lack of detail seems to be a theme with Moroccan recipes and makes me wonder if Moroccans are expected to know these things, as they have been taught by their mothers!

Prune almond and beef tagine

Et voilà! If you enjoyed this post about Moroccan cooking, you might also like my post on making Zaalouk. Next week, I’m going to stick with the red meat theme and try steak tartare!

Published by verityroat

Verity Roat BA CANTAB MA TRANSLATION CIOL Career Associate is a UK-based Arabic and French > English translator, Copy-writer, Copy-editor, Transcriber, Role-player & Tutor.

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