Tagine, or stew in Arabic, is to North African Sephardic cooking what Tzimmes is to Ashkenazic cooking. It's a meat, fruit, vegetable, and spice dish, cooked slowly over a long period of time. Such dishes are often served on the sabbath to conform to the proscriptions against cooking on the sabbath. As such, they are begun at high temperatures and then slowly cooked on a sabbath warming tray (blech) until Saturday noon. Tagine is more aromatic than tzimmes. It is typically served with couscous. This particular recipe is based on one from Paula Wolfert.


Combine the oil, saffron, turmeric, pepper, ginger, cayenne, and onion. Dip the meat in the mixture to coat. Heat a large casserole over moderately high heat. Cook meat until seared on all sides. Add enough water to just barely cover the meat, bring to boil, and simmer, covered for 1 hour. Add sliced onions and simmer another 30 minutes or longer until the meat is quite tender. Add prunes and simmer, uncovered, until the sauce is reduced to about 1 cup. In a saucepan, arrange squash, honey, orange blossom (or rose blossom) water and cinnamon sticks. Simmer 15 minutes. Reduce cooking liquid over high heat until syrupy. Add squash mixture to the meat mixture, combine well, and simmer an additional 5 minutes.

Serve with couscous, sprinkled with either the almonds or sesame seeds.

To prepare this for Shabbat lunch: about two hours before Shabbat, prepare the squash. Then brown the meat in a heavy cast-iron pot or the cooking vessel of a crock-pot. To the meat, add the liquid from the squash, the onions, prunes, and just enough water to barely cover the meat. Then refrigerate the squash (liquid removed), and keep the meat mixture cooking on a blech or in the crock-pot. On Saturday morning, warm the squash on the blech. Just before serving, remove the tagine from the blech, combine the squash with the tagine, and serve over couscous, sprinkled with either the almonds or sesame seeds. 8-12 servings.

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