Coming down from the village of Imlil, we saw clever capers peeping out of the rock walls waving to us as we flew by. The wind in Marrakech was ferocious for three days. The far distant fields were a massive wall, the color of terracotta. We made our way into the medina from Place Mokfed, past the familiar bamboo covered market, till we made our immediate left and quick right down to Riad Mezzouar. Nadia was there to greet us, get us settled in and ushered into the kitchen. Today was an important day. Tangia! Tangia is only made in Marrakech and only by men, for men. It’s a treat prepared by bachelors for a party or an outdoor gathering accompanied by music and card playing. I have also heard that it can be used as a peace offering if there has been a fight between couples. The man takes it home to his wife as a genuine gesture of love. It’s a strong dish with a lot of cumin and preserved lemon rubbed on beef or lamb. What makes it so sought after is that it made and put in the ashes of the wood fire, used to heat the hammam (turkish bath). Our friend Rachid from the Riad took us around to the Hammam and we put our tanjia in the ashes of an underground fire pit.
Tanjia is not to be mistaken for Tagine. Tagine is a conical shaped terracotta lid that fits over a flat, but lipped, terracotta bottom. Tanjia is an upright terracotta vessel with two round handles.
3 lbs. beef or lamb
6 whole cloves of garlic peeled
2 T cumin
A good pinch of saffron
1 preserved lemon, split into 4
1 T of ras al hanout (44 spice blend found in the spice market)
2-3 oz of smen (preserved butter) or regular butter and a bit of olive oil
1 glass of water
Place all the ingredients into the tangia (or heavy pot with a lid), add the water, mix well.
If it’s a Tanjia, you must close the top with paper and and wrap around with string (if you are going to put in the ashes.) Take to the hammam and give it to the farnachi (the man who tends to the fire) and leave it for at least 4 hours. Shake it every now and then, so it doesn’t stick. Poke holes in the top of the paper to let the steam escape after a few hours. Serve very hot.