December 31, 2014
At Home with Friends

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Holiday in Morocco: Tagines, Tangia and Magical Vessels

So much of what I love about Morocco is that I experience living history.

I wandered through Souks that have existed since the Middle Ages, that Edith Wharton wrote about in the 1920’s, that combine Berber, Hebrew, Roman and French influences. And nowhere is this more evident than in the food. The recipes and cooking vessels themselves are the same ones that have been used for centuries.

I knew about tagines as a vessel and recipes from my earlier adventures in Morocco. This time, I saw mini tagines filled with artfully arranged vegetables, ready to be eaten or taken home. This was a type of Moroccan to-go food but completely fresh.  Even my hotel served basted eggs in bright red mini tagines. The vessel itself made simple eggs more inviting and exotic.

In Marrakech, I was introduced to the tangia. The word “tangia” refers to both a type of elongated double handled terra cotta pot and the food inside. The pot is filled with beef, lamb, chicken or whatever the owner chooses, lots of spices and sealed with heavy brown paper, and secured with butcher’s twine. It is cooked for hours until the meat is tender and succulent.

Historically, these tangias were taken to the hammam or steam bath and cooked all day in the ashes from the coal. Today this is the Moroccan version of a slow cooker or crock pot. People order them in various sizes from specific vendors and pick them up at the end of the day on their way home. My guide, Aziz, informed me that the smaller ones were for bachelors, Moroccan take-out. But definitely not fast food.

As to what’s in the tagia, it can be anything from chicken, lamb or beef and of course any part of the animal from nose to tail, including hooves. I was offered a taste from a small tangia that had chunks of lamb and smelled enticing. I just couldn’t manage it. It was early in the morning and I was filled from eggs and bread and honey.

I guess I’ll have to go back to Morocco.

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