I haven’t been to a cooking class in quite a while. So in celebration of a new year of culinary fun–and at the request of my cooking partner in crime, Erica–we decided to try a Moroccan cooking class called “The Secret to Making 1001 Tajines” at Boston Center for Adult Education (BCAE).
I’ve taken three classes at BCAE now, and I’ve come to expect a few things during my lessons: Clear directions and measurements, handouts with recipes, etc. Well, this Moroccan cooking class was quite a bit different. Our instructor was Somaya, a native of Belgium with Moroccan heritage. Erica and I quickly learned that this class was going to be much like Moroccan cooking in general: very off-the-cuff and spontaneous.
We were broken into five different groups so we could each prepare a different type of tagine, one of the classic dishes in Moroccan cuisine. Erica and I were tasked with creating a version that incorporated potatoes, carrots, onions, spices, and kofta (meatballs made of lamb, beef, mutton, or chicken). We made ours with beef. Once we cut up our vegetables, we “marinated” them in a mix of different Moroccan spices (cinnamon, cumin, saffron, salt, pepper, and Raz el Hanout, which is a typical Moroccan spice blend). While we slowly cooked the vegetable mixture and water over the stovetop, we made our kofta. Once the vegetables in our tagine were pretty tender, it was time to throw in the kofta. It didn’t take long for the meat to cook in the pot, so we finished the dish by throwing in about half a bag of frozen peas. With a few additional sprinkles of salt, we were done. Not bad at all.
The rest of the groups prepared a variety of other tagines, including a sweet version with chicken, almonds, veggies, chickpeas, cinnamon, and couscous; another chicken version with dates, raisins, and veggies topped with slivered sweet potatoes; a vegetarian option with Brussels sprouts, carrots, fennel, onion, and potatoes; and another chicken tagine with green olives and lemons and topped with “french fries,” which were sweet and regular potatoes fried in oil and sprinkled with salt. We also made a simple Moroccan salad as a side, which was more of a tomato relish. And we finished everything off with a delightfully simple dessert of oranges topped with an almond-y mixture of sweetness.
We gathered around our tagines and dug in. They were all delicious. The sweet chicken version with couscous was definitely my favorite.
As I said before, this class was unlike the others I have grown used to at BCAE. When we asked Somaya how much we needed of a certain ingredient, she shrugged her shoulders and responded with, “You just kind of smell it, and you know.” I’m used to precise measurements and knowing exactly how much of an ingredient I need, but this type of “whatever you want goes” cooking was new for me. I’m not sure if I liked it or not, and I’m pretty sure I don’t have the special cooking “nose” that Somaya has, but the class was certainly fun.
In the end, I’m not sure if I could recreate any of the dishes we made since I don’t have a recipe handout, and I don’t really remember how much of each item I threw in the pot, but I do know that I have a solid grasp about what actually goes into a traditional tagine, and what ingredients go well together.
Time to break out the Dutch oven for my next Moroccan culinary adventure!