I can just hear you saying ‘What? That doesn’t look like a tajine at all’. Exactly my reaction when I was first introduced to this Tunisian dish. Well it is a tajine! But I agree that it really looks like a frittata or a spanish tortilla! Tajine originally from North africa refers to the dish which is named after the earthenware pot in which it is cooked. Everyone knows the Moroccan version which is a stew over low heat for a long time and usually includes sweet and savoury tastes. This Tunisian version is a lot faster to make and is just as tasty. Starting with a base of eggs, you can add chicken, minced veal, tuna, potatoes, spinach, cheese, parsley and a mix of spices. Pop the whole lot in the oven and 20-30 minutes later you have yourself a tasty, quick and easy meal with possible leftovers for a delicious lunchbox.
I’ve been wanting to share this recipe on the blog for some time but kept putting it off. Surprisingly this week at school, one of my colleagues who just so happens to be a Tunisian brought some tajine for lunch and of course we all had a taste of it. Poor Mounira, thank God she ate a piece before offering a bite to the whole table of famished teachers. I told her of my intention of making a vegetarian version and she was adamant that if it didn’t have chicken, tuna or meat then it wasn’t a tajine! I guess she won this round but I will make a vegetarian version soon and I won’t tell her. Shhhhhh If you are looking for a vegetarian frittata, have you tried this my vegetarian frittata inspired by Gino d’Acampo? It’s a keeper!
You are probably asking yourselves what makes this ‘tajine’ any different from a frittata? I suppose it’s all in the spices. See how the beautiful golden colour? Turmeric! See those white dots? Vache qui rit or ‘laughing cow’ cheese! I never thought I’d cook with that cheese. Actually I never thought I’d ever put a piece of it in my mouth but today I did. That cheese and me go a very long way.
When I was a kid, living in the Niger, my father would take us to work with him during the summer. That was no ordinary job… He worked in the desert saving antelopes (he still does – if you are interested please check SCF) Anyways, we would pack and go spend 1-2 months in the Sahara desert. Cool you say. Yes! Amazing! Absolutely magical if it weren’t for the FOOOOOOD! Man! Laughing cow for breakfast, sardines or pilchards (yuck) for lunch and corn beef for dinner! To jazz things up a bit we’d have sardines and peas for dinner. I would have killed for an apple, fresh water, anything but cheese, sardines and corn beef. After 5-6 weeks, any hamlet or nomad settlement that offered anything fresh was heaven to us.
To this date, I’ve never, never had those three ingredients. The type of experience that puts you off something for the rest of your life. Anyways, that’s me reminiscing on my relationship with that triangular cheese. For some reason, unknown to me, there are quite a few Northern African dishes that use it. It won’t be my last time for sure.
Tips. If you don’t want a soggy tajine, make sure you cook all the ingredients until there is no liquid left; especially if you are adding spinach, peppers or courgettes (zucchini). I used parsley to stay true to Mounira’s version but you can use coriander if you prefer.
In terms of spices, it’s a mix of turmeric, cumin, paprika, coriander and ras-al-hanout, which is a blend of spices. If can find it then it’s great. It’s a very versatile blend that you can use to add a ‘Maurish’ taste to anything; stews, couscous, vegetables, etc. If you can’t find any, then a touch of garam masala could do, or even curry but just a pinch.
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2-3 small chicken breasts, cut into small pieces
- 1-2 potatoes, cooked and chopped
- 8 eggs
- 80 grams of grated cheese (parmesan, or any hard cheese of your choice)
- 4 triangles of Laughing Cow
- 2 tbsp parsley, chopped
- 1 tsp ras-al-hanout
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp coriander
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 180°C and lightly grease an ovenproof dish.
- Sauté the onion in the olive oil until tender.
- Add the chicken breast and cook for 3-4 minutes.
- When the chicken is nearly done, add the spices and half the parsley.
- In a bowl, mix the eggs with a fork and add the cheese and the rest of the parsley. Salt and pepper to taste.
- Scatter the potato pieces on the ovenproof dish and pour the egg mixture.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the tajine is set.
Enjoy with a fresh green salad or as an appetizer.