December 22, 2013

Beef Tagine with Cinnamon and Carrots

Slush and spindly-fingered trees herald the official start to the season of long-simmered soups and stews. Here is one we keep returning to, a tagine that transports us across the world, then calls us back home with its cozy cinnamon; rich broth; ultra-tender beef; and carrots in bright, familiar coins...

Tagine, a Moroccan stew named after the conical vessel it's traditionally cooked in, is pronounced "ta-zhine," the way you imagine the French would say it. Here in our little house in New York, we spent a good long time calling it "ta-GEEN," nailing that G like a dropped hunk of frozen beef. Woops. Sorry, generations of North African cooks.

We've since amended our pronunciation, but Darwin still likes saying it the old way, only now it's funny. He especially likes to proclaim, through giggles, that we are having "Pea-Ta-Geen," (say it!) and in fact I credit him with the tender and colorful addition of spring peas to this otherwise deeply-spiced and wintery stew.

I used to give him a little dish of frozen peas to stir into his bowl at the table, because he liked to eat it that way; then I tasted his leftovers, and understood the wisdom of this extra ingredient. Now as serving time approaches, I hoist his ever-lengthening frame up to the stovetop, and, with a flash-reminder of what's-hot-up-here (everything except the handle of the wooden spoon), I let him dump the peas into the pot and give them a jerky stir.

Once again, a bit of kitchen wisdom comes back around with the spoon: what's good for one of us is good for all of us.

Beef Tagine with Cinnamon and Carrots
Serves 4

1 pound cubed stew beef
1 medium-large onion, quartered and thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 carrots, sliced into coins (I used multicolored carrots)
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 tsp. turmeric powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 cup raisins
3 Tbls. minced fresh parsley
1/2 tsp. fine-grained sea salt
2 Tbls. extra virgin olive oil

In a med-large stew pot over medium heat, heat butter or olive oil and fry onions until soft and translucent, about 7 minutes.

Add the beef and fry, stirring frequently, another 5 minutes or until it's browned on all sides.

Add garlic and fry a minute or two more.

Add carrots, turmeric, cinnamon, cumin, salt, and two cups of water. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to barely a simmer.

Cover the pot, and leave it to simmer 45 minutes to an hour. Toss the raisins in about halfway through cooking, and give the pot a stir once in a while.

Add peas just before serving; the heat of the stew will defrost them, but they'll stay fresh and tender.

Serve in bowls with a scattering of parsley.


  1. Oh, yum. What a simple and delicious meal! I love tagine, but most recipes I find are a little fussy. This looks just right! I will have to try this soon.

    1. I hope you love it as much as we do!