You might not think that cauliflower is the right kind of vegetable to add to a stew, but it works beautifully in this traditional Moroccan recipe for Lamb or Beef Tagine with Cauliflower. The light sauce is seasoned with ginger, cumin and paprika while preserved lemons and olives add salty, tangy, complementary flavor. You can parboil the cauliflower before adding it to the meat, but I don’t bother because I like the cauliflower to absorb as much of the fragrant sauce as possible.
The cooking time below is for a pressure cooker. Allow double the time if using a pot or Dutch oven, and about triple that time if slow cooking in a clay or ceramic tagine. (If cooking in a tagine, be sure to use a diffuser if your cooking heat is not gas.)
Moroccan Lamb or Beef Tagine with Cauliflower
- 1 1/2 lb. lamb or beef cut into 2" to 3" pieces
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1 tomato, grated
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 3 to 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped or pressed
- 1 handful of fresh parsley chopped
- 1 handful of fresh cilantro chopped
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ginger
- 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
- 1 large head of cauliflower broken into large florets
- 1 preserved lemon, quartered and seeds removed
- 1/2 cup red olives
- 1 to 2 tablespoons lemon juice (optional)
Pressure Cooker or Conventional Pot Method
- Put the meat, grated tomato, onions, garlic, olive oil, parsley, cilantro, and spices into a pressure cooker or large, heavy-bottomed pot. Stir to mix well.
- Cook over medium to medium-high heat, uncovered, for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring several times to turn the meat and brown it on all sides.
- Add about three cups of water, cover the pressure cooker or pot, and increase the heat to high. If using a pressure cooker: When pressure has been achieved, reduce the heat to medium and cook for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the meat is very tender. If using a regular pot: When the liquids are boiling, reduce the heat to medium and simmer for about 1 1/2 hours, or until the meat is tender. Check occasionally to be sure there are still liquids and add a little more water if necessary.
- When the meat has cooked, add the cauliflower, preserved lemon, and olives. If necessary, add enough water to almost cover the cauliflower. Rapidly simmer the cauliflower, partially covered, about 15 to 20 minutes, until the cauliflower is tender and the sauce is reduced to a thick broth-like consistency.
- Taste the sauce for seasoning. If you'd like stronger lemon flavor, add 1 or 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice.
- Serve from a communal platter with Moroccan bread for scooping up the meat and vegetables.
Clay or Ceramic Tagine Preparation
- In the base of tagine, combine the onion, garlic, grated tomato, and meat with the olive oil, spices and herbs. Arrange the meat in the middle of the tagine, bone-side down.
- Add 2 cups of water. Cover the tagine and place it over medium heat (use a diffuser if your stove is not gas). When it reaches a simmer (this can take 15 minutes or longer), reduce the heat to medium-low and continue simmering for about 1 1/2 hours.
- Add the cauliflower, pressing the florets into the sauce all around the meat. If the liquids don't reach halfway up the sides of the cauliflower, add a little more water.
- Arrange the olives and preserved lemon quarters in the tagine, then cover and bring back to a simmer over medium-low heat. Continue cooking for another hour, occasionally spooning sauce over the cauliflower, until the meat can be pinched off the bone, the cauliflower florets are tender and the sauce is reduced.
- Taste the sauce and if desired, add the optional lemon juice.
- Remove from the heat and serve. Tradition is to eat directly from the tagine, using bread in lieu of utensils.
- Watch the salt when seasoning, as the preserved lemon and olives will add their own salty essence to the dish.
- If you feel the sauce is salty enough before you add the lemon and olives, don't add them directly to the sauce and instead use them to garnish the finished dish.
- The exact same preparation is used to make a tagine with cabbage. Simply replace the cauliflower with 1/2 to 1 whole head of cabbage (core discarded and leaves chopped into strips).