One of the little known treasures of Morocco is a special oil that comes from the south of the country. Thanks to mass marketing by the beauty industry argan oil is becoming very popular among those who use it for cosmetic purposes. I was first introduced to culinary argan as a dip and have always thought it made a great pair with meat. That’s where this beef tagine recipe was born!
Argan oil is made from the seeds of an argan tree. These grow in semi-desert conditions (namely the southwestern part of Morocco) and are considered endangered.
The traditional harvesting method was by picking the seeds out of the waste of goats, who climb the trees and eat the fruit. The seeds were cleaned and roasted, and cracked open to obtain the oil rich kernals inside. These were then crushed to extract the oil. Local Amazigh (Berber) families would use argan oil to eat or for beauty regimes. They would burn the shells, and feed the waste of the crushing of the seeds to their animals. Nothing was/is wasted.
Today most of the oil is pressed by mechanical means and is much more sanitary. To make culinary argan, the kernels found within the seeds are extracted, roasted and pressed giving the oil a very distinct nutty flavor. A dip called Amalou is made with the remnants of the kernels and oil after extraction and is sweetened, it is a favorite in our house.
Argan is a somewhat delicate oil so you don’t want to heat it too much. It’s better used as a drizzle afterwards. I keep it on hand to add to hummus or on salads but had never used it in a recipe.
I thought that the nutty-ness of the oil would go well with beef. In the coastal areas of Morocco where argan grows and goats feed on it, it’s very common to see goat tagines advertised. There’s a subtle taste of argan in the meat that I was hoping to impart in this recipe.
Argan isn't often used in cooking in Morocco but I infused it into this dish for something a little different.
- 1 lbs. beef, cut into 2” to 3″ pieces
- 1 medium chopped onion
- 3 tbsp argan oil, enough to cover the bottom of the pressure cooker and saute the onions + a bit more to drizzle at the end if desired
- 1 tablespoon ginger
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled
- small handful of chopped cilantro
- 1–2 handfuls green olives with pits
- In the bottom of the pan add the argan oil and onions, saute for 3-4 minutes until onions begin to soften. Argan oil will not bubble the same way that olive or vegetable oil does, it is much thicker and will start to bubble like sugar water that is caramelizing.
- Add the pieces of meat and spices and mix until coated.
- Add enough water to cover the meat and cover the pressure cooker. Turn the temperature down to low/medium and allow to cook for 50min – 1 hr. Make sure to check that the water is not low.
- Open pressure cooker after this time, there should still be liquid.
- Add the green olives and turn the heat back on to medium until the liquid is reduced to a sauce.
- When the tagine is completely cooked, turn out into a serving dish, drizzle with extra argan oil.
While it might seem a little odd, this tagine is great topped with fresh fried french fries!