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Tajines: Moroccan stew on the modern homestead.

I can't begin to tell you how many times there have been things that just have to be done even though I have three very hungry people to feed (my two kids and husband). Laundry or yard work, gardening, or housework waits for no man (or woman). My husband works up to 12 hours a day at his outside job so if anything gets done I end up doing it.

Since my husband, the chef, was born in Morocco, his family has introduced me to slow-cooking stews called "tajines." Normally these are prepared up to five hours prior to the meal. A special clay pot, also known as a tajine, is filled with the ingredients. Then a bread dough is prepared and used to seal the lid to the pot and the whole thing is set in or over low burning coals on a fire. Hours later it is unsealed to everyone's enjoyment.

Well, I don't have a tajine pot in my American kitchen, but I found an iron casserole with a lid. They come enameled in various colors and sizes. The 2-1/2 quart size is a godsend. By cooking the "tajine" stew with the lid on I approximate the flavor.

In addition I have discovered Japanese rice cookers. Just put the rice on to cook and the cooker simmers it -- even keeps it warm -- without burning. What a time-saver--and it will shut off by itself. A meal with little problem on days when problems abound.

(Modified) Braised Lamb and Two Bean Tajine (Casserole)

Serves six 2 pints water 1-1/2 teaspoon salt 1/4 pound (4 ounces) dried red kidney beans 1/3 pound fresh green beans, snapped into largish pieces 2 pounds lamb, cut into 2-inch cubes, preferably lamb shoulder, boneless, fat free. 1 pound lamb bones, sawn (not chopped) into 2-3 inch pieces 1/4 cup onions, finely chopped 4 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped 3 tablespoons leeks, finely chopped 3 tablespoons dill, finely chopped (or 5 teaspoons dried) 2-1/2 tablespoons mint (traditionally spearmint), finely chopped (or 2-1/2 teaspoons dried) 3 teaspoons ground fenugreek seeds 2-1/2 teaspoons ground turmeric 1 scant teaspoon oregano Freshly ground black pepper 3/4 cup fresh lemon juice

The night before, bring one pint of water to boil with one teaspoon of salt. Add the dried beans and boil gently for three minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool, covered. Refrigerate, after cooling, overnight in the liquid.

In a heavy sauce pan heat the oil until very hot and sear the meat and bones in small batches until thoroughly browned, without burning. As they finish remove them with a slotted spoon to the large enameled iron casserole.

Drop the onions into the fat and saute gently until soft and glistening but not browned (approximately five minutes). Add the parsley, leeks, dill, mint, fenugreek, turmeric, oregano, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Saute briskly, stirring constantly so it won't burn, until any moisture is almost gone. Layer over the meat.

Take the remaining water and deglaze the pan. Scrape off meat scraps and pour into the casserole.

Drain the kidney beans in a colander and layer in the casserole. Top with the green beans. Cover tightly and bake in a slow oven (300 [degrees] F) for 2-1/2 hours.

Remove from oven and raise the heat to 350 [degrees] F. Pour in the lemon juice and gently toss the ingredients. Set the lid slightly ajar and return to the oven for 30 minutes more.

Serve either from the casserole or a heated bowl. Traditionally served over buttered rice or buttered couscous.

Eggplant and Meat Tajine

Serves four to six 3 small (or 2 medium) eggplants (European size) Salt 1 large onion, finely chopped Oil 1-1/2 pounds lean meat (lamb, veal or beef) cut into 1-inch cubes 3 medium tomatoes, skinned and quartered 1 tablespoon tomato paste juice of 1/2 lemon 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin Optional: 1/2 teaspoon allspice or a scant sprinkle of nutmeg 1-1/2 cups water

Slice the Aubergines (eggplants) and sprinkle them with salt. Allow them to drain in a colander for at least one-half hour. Wash them and pat them dry. In an enameled iron casserole heat a little oil and fry the eggplant to color them. Set aside to drain again.

In the same casserole fry the onion in about two tablespoons oil (less if desired) until soft and golden. Set aside to drain.

In the casserole add the meat in batches and brown thoroughly. Remove with a slotted spoon when done. Pour off any extra oil in the pan. Return the casserole to the heat and add the to toes and squash them with a fork. Stir in the onion, tomato paste and lemon juice thoroughly. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the cumin, and if desired, the allspice or nutmeg.

Remove from heat. Add the eggplant and meat and stir in gently. Add the water, cover tightly and bake in a slow oven (300' F) for at least 1-1/2 hours. Set the lid ajar and bake one-half hour more.

Can be served with almost any kind of starch although rice or couscous is traditional.
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Title Annotation:includes recipes
Author:Ktiyeh, Leila
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Jul 1, 1993
Previous Article:A feast of legumes.
Next Article:How to make - and spell - spaetzle.

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