Want to use the spices in your cupboard? Make this Slow Cooker Moroccan Tagine with Chickpeas & Pearl Couscous
If you buy a few key Indian spices, they’ll go a long way. Totally worth the investment if you ask me, because you can use Indian spices in many recipes that are not Indian at all. Ground cumin powder for instance, is routinely used in everything from spice rubs to salads in Tex-Mex, Mexican, Middle Eastern, and African cooking, to name but a few cuisines. Ground spices will keep in your pantry for a couple of years, and whole spices like cinnamon stick have a shelf-life of 3-4 years. If you follow my 5-10-5 Rule, which is a cheat sheet I created for my husband Sean so he could make a few basic Indian dishes, you will spend at most $30-50 on good quality spices that will last you a long time. This Moroccan recipe for tagine calls for traditional Indian spices like cinnamon, cumin, coriander, turmeric, and red chilli flakes. But it doesn’t taste like an Indian dish at all (also the couscous is distinctly un-Indian). The reason? The combination and ratio of spices is key in different cuisines. For more on this, see the Art of Indian Cooking.
I’ve never been to Morocco nor do I know much about Moroccan cuisine, but I absolutely LOVE tagine. For me, tagine is the definition of comfort food and I especially crave it on a really cold day. Spelled both ‘tajine’ and ‘tagine’ it’s a North African dish named after the clay pot it’s typically cooked in (see photo above). Like any good stew, a good tagine is a hearty, slow cooked combination of meat and vegetables. In the recipe below, tender lamb and luscious chunks of root vegetables are thickened by crushed tomatoes and spiced with cinnamon and red chilli pepper. Dotted with plump chickpeas, tagine is often ladled generously over steamed couscous with currents. If you’re vegetarian or vegan, you can easily adapt this by doubling up on the veggies. If you’re following a low-carb or paleo diet, you can leave out the couscous.
I went searching for an authentic tagine recipe online and stumbled across this one. It was fabulous. Done in the slow cooker, it’s my favorite kind of family dinner because it’s a one-pot meal — you put everything in the slow cooker, turn it on, and then impress everyone by getting dinner on the table in minutes. The work is minimal here — if you buy peeled butternut squash, all you need to do is sauté onion and garlic in some olive oil and peel and slice a couple of carrots — everything else goes right into the slow cooker. So, with a bit of prep, your tagine will gently bubble away all day until you come home, and just 10 minutes before you sit down to dinner, add the couscous, followed by chickpeas and raisins in the last 5 minutes. Completing it with fresh green leaf parsley as you serve it up, you’ll notice that your dinner table is silent because everyone is too busy eating to talk 🙂
Moroccan Slow Cooker Tagine with Chickpeas and Pearl Couscous (adapted)
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 2 onions, chopped
- 2-3 cloves garlic, minced; 4-6 garlic cloves whole
- Cooking spray (for slow cooker insert; you can also grease lightly with canola oil if you don’t have spray)
- 4 cups butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into cubes (about 1 medium butternut squash)
- 1 cup carrots, sliced into 1/2 inch rounds
- 15 oz can crushed tomatoes
- 1 cup water
- 2-2.5 pounds boneless lamb, cut into chunks (you can also use chicken, beef OR double up on vegetables, see ‘variations’ below)
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon red chilli flakes
- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1.5 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 15 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1 cup uncooked pearl (Israeli) couscous
- 1/4 cup raisins OR dried apricots, diced
- Fresh parsley, finely chopped (just before serving)
- Heat canola oil in a small skillet or frying pan. Add onion and chopped garlic; saute for 5 minutes until golden and glassy. Remove from heat and set aside
- Spray slow cooker insert with cooking spray. Place butternut squash on the bottom. Add small skillet of onion and garlic, whole garlic cloves, carrots, crushed tomatoes, and water. Then add lamb. Sprinkle cinnamon, cumin, red pepper flakes, turmeric, salt, and pepper. Mix gently (just the top half so spices blend with raw lamb). Cook for 4 hours on HIGH or 8 hours on LOW.
- Ten minutes before serving, take the back of a wooden spoon and gently crush the whole garlic cloves against the wall of the slow cooker so they melt into the gravy. Add pearl couscous and mix well to combine. After 5 minutes add chickpeas (make sure you drain them!) and raisins. Stir, cover and heat for 5 minutes or until couscous is tender.
- Serve topped with chopped parsley.
- You can use chicken thighs or stewing beef. You can also use meat on the bone, I just prefer to use boneless!
- If you’re vegetarian or vegan, you can substitute the meat with 4 cups of vegetables OR with 2 cans of chick peas and 1/2 cup extra pearl couscous.