Moroccan flavors highlight this easy, low-fat, tagine of pork, with sweet potatoes and ras-el-hanout.
The making of - Tagine of Pork with Sweet Potato and ras-el-hanout
I love cooking food with the flavors of Morocco. Pungent, sweet, spicy, cinnamon, ginger, cumin, coriander. Warm flavors that turn a simple stew into a Moroccan feast. Combine the spice with sweetness, and, as in most tagines, dried fruits, and you have a taste sensation for your mouth.
Many people are put off, or afraid to try Moroccan cooking. Too many ingredients. What the heck is a tagine? Sound difficult.
Blah blah blah.
Well, let me help you out there.
Moroccan Cooking - The Easy Way
To keep this recipe simple I used Ras-el-hanout; a combination of most all of the spices used in Moroccan cooking. It includes almost 20 spices so it's pretty inclusive while giving authentic flavor to the dish. The only thing it lacks, in my opinion, is heat. So I add a bit of cayenne.
Add it to your taste.
The Cooking Vessel
A tagine is a conical cooking device used in Moroccan cooking, unique in that the top allows the condensation created by cooking to fall evenly back over the food.
Tagines come in different styles and use. Some are strictly for serving, not meant to be heated or used for cooking at all. Many are clay versions, which can be used in the oven. Some clay pots allow limited stove-top use. Then there are those with bases that can be heated on top of the stove allowing you to brown and cook from beginning to end.
A decorative tagine
After having first making the error and purchasing an ornamental serving tagine, which is pretty useless except as a kitchen decoration, I bought a Le Creuset tagine, with a cast iron base. This allows me to cook my entire recipe in one pot, start to finish. While not cheap, it is, in my opinion, worth it if you to want cook Moroccan food.
A functional tagine
Should you neither desire another piece of kitchen equipment or think you won't use it often, then a Dutch oven will also work for this recipe.
I chose a pork tenderloin for this recipe, both for its leanness and ability to cook to tender quickly. You could use tougher cuts of pork, or other cuts of meat, such as beef stew, but both of those would need to cook longer than the tenderloin. Tenderloin will be tender in about 20 minutes total, other, tougher cuts, might take up to an hour to get tender. If you decide on another cut of meat, be sure to cook it in the sauce until tender before adding the sweet potatoes and other ingredients.
To Fruit or not to Fruit
This recipe also does not include the standard dried fruits often associated with a tagine and Moroccan cooking. Apricots, dates, and raisins are very common. While not in the recipe per se, they could be easily incorporated. If you choose to add dried fruits, I would go with golden raisins or apricots.
The Sweet Potato
Sweet potatoes are another one of those "superfoods" supplying amazing amounts of nutritional value. 214% of your daily requirement of Vitamin A, 50% of Vitamin C, along with magnesium, and many other trace elements. Not all sweet potatoes are orange inside, as a matter of fact, you can find purple ones. Alongside sweet potatoes in the grocery aisle are garnet potatoes, and what is commonly called a yam, although it is not a true yam. Any of these can easily be used in this recipe. Even pumpkin or butternut squash could be substituted. Adjust your cooking time accordingly.
To the Finish Line
The dish is finished with a fine chop of preserved lemon, roasted salted pistachios, and cilantro.
How to make your own preserved lemons
Preserved lemon has a unique flavor. Preserved lemons are simple enough to make, although it takes time. Cut lemons tightly packed into a non-reactive container with enough salt and juice to cover them...then just letting them sit and ferment for a few weeks, or months. But as we know, time is not always our friend, so they are fairly easy to find in many stores, and of course, online. Look at specialty stores, or find them as I do at Trader Joe's or The World Market.
And with the cost of lemons these days, it's also more cost-effective to buy them already made.
Cilantro, yes or no?
Cilantro is one of those, love it or hate it, herbs. If you hate it, don't use it. If you love it? Well then go and add it. I personally love cilantro and enjoy the way the flavor mingles and brings out the tart-sweet lemon flavors in the preserved lemons.
Pistachios. Who doesn't love pistachios? Buttery, salty, fatty, rich. One of the oldest nuts used in history, pistachios is part of the healthy fats we need to include in our diets. If you don't want to use, or don't have pistachios, cashews are a good substitute. Whichever nuts you use, be sure to toast them!
So that's the easy tagine. Nothing to fear. Just good eats. On the table in about 30 minutes...
Tagine of Pork with Sweet Potato and ras-al-harnout
Try this with a side of Twice Cooked Brown Rice.
Wine Recommendation: The Moroccan flavors of the dish pairs well with lighter Spanish reds such as Grenache and Rioja. If looking for a white, I would recommend a Roussanne, from the Rhone or an off-dry Riesling from Alsace. A spicy German Gewurztraminer would also work nicely.
Tagine of Pork with Sweet Potato and ras-el-hanout
- 2 tablespoons Ghee or 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil + 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 ½ pounds pork tenderloin cubed in about 1-inch pieces
- 1 1 - inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
- ½ cup onion finely chopped (about 1 medium or ½ large)
- 2 teaspoons ras-el-hanout or to taste
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Water as needed
- 2 medium-small sweet potatoes peeled and cubed
- 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes with juice
- 1 ½ cups frozen peas
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Preserved lemon chopped
- ¼ cup toasted pistachio coarsely chopped
- ½ cup fresh cilantro leaves
- Heat the ghee (or oil and butter) in a stove-top approved tagine or heavy-bottomed casserole. Pat the pork dry with towels and season lightly with salt and freshly ground pepper. Saute in the ghee, stirring until lightly browned; add the ginger and onion and cook, stirring often, until the onion is tender. Add the ras-el-hanout and cayenne, stir in well, then add enough water to cover the meat; bring to a simmer, cover and simmer for 10 - 15 minutes.
- Add the sweet potato and tomatoes with their juice, cover and simmer 10 minutes or until the potato is tender; stir in the peas; cook 5 minutes until done. Taste and adjust seasonings.
- Top the tagine with the preserved lemon, pistachios, and cilantro. Serve with a side of rice or couscous.