“In Morocco, cooking is a woman’s thing.  Men are excluded from kitchens.  The great cooks — family cooks, professional cooks, those who cook for weddings and parties, the guardians of the culinary tradition — are black women, the ‘dadas’.  Who they are is a taboo subject — the hidden face of Morocco.  The women are descended from African slaves who were brought from the Sudan, which was once part of the Moroccan empire.  In the 17th century the sultan Moulay Ismail recruited from the states of the Sahel 150,000 slaves.  The men constituted the origin of the Sherifan black guard.  The women became domestics in people’s homes.  Some became concubines, some wives, some were freed and became midwives.  In imperial Fez, it was not uncommon that the men of great families chose young dadas as their fourth wives, to look after their children and cook.  Their children were often recognized and took on the father’s name.  A form of bondage went on until not so long ago, and the women remained illiterate; that is why it is a taboo subject.”   Claudia Roden, The New Book of Middle Eastern Food

For the spice mixture:

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons olive oil

1-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon coarse (kosher) salt

½ teaspoon ground turmeric

½ teaspoon paprika

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the tagine:

3 pounds lamb shoulder or boneless leg of lamb, cut into 3 to 4 inch chunks

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 onions, thinly sliced

2 cups homemade beef stock or canned broth

1 cup water

1/8 teaspoon crumbled saffron threads

15 Kalamata or other imported black olives

2 preserved lemons, pulp discarded, skin slivered (these are available from Middle Eastern stores, or make them yourself)

¼ cup chopped cilantro

Spicy vegetable couscous to accompany

1   Combine the spice mixture ingredients in a large bowl and stir well.  Add the lamb and turn to coat it well.

  1. Lightly brown the lamb, in batches, in the oil, over medium heat, in a large tagine, heavy lidded skillet or Dutch oven. Return all meat to the tagine and add the onions.  Cook, stirring, 5 minutes.  Then add the stock, water and saffron.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and cover.  Simmer for 1 hour.
  1. Stir in the olives and slivered preserved lemons. Cover and simmer another 30 minutes.
  1. Spoon the tagine into soup bowls over couscous, sprinkle with cilantro and serve.


from Julie Rosso and Sheila Lukins, The New Basics Cookbook

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