The tajine is a Moroccan slow-cooker. It's an ancient cooking pot originally used by the indigenous Berbers of North Africa. It is not only the word used to describe the cooking vessel but the meal contained inside. Braniya happens to be one of MarocBaba's favorite meals, though it was only this year that he “remembered.”
Regional names for varieties of tajines are often unknown even to other Moroccans. In Marrakech this dish is braniya, but when talking with some friends of ours who are from the Rabat area, they had no clue what he was referring to.
So, not only do no other Arabic speakers (save for some Algerians) understand Moroccan Arabic, even other Moroccans in the country don't understand all the variations of the language! I'm sure this tajine is prepared in other parts of the country, though I'm not sure the other names it goes by.
Here's what I do know.
- This dish is amazingly delicious.
- It's got lamb.
- It's a quasi eggplant tagine.
- It has a delicious, rich sauce.
- DO NOT serve this on top of, next to, or anywhere near couscous. You have been warned. Couscous and tajine are two different dishes that do not go together!
Most tajines are prepared, left alone to slowly cook, and then eaten by scooping up the pieces with crusty Moroccan bread. There's a little more work involved with braniya, but I promise it's worth it. If you want to try your hand at Moroccan bread I've got a recipe for khubz here at MarocMama. Otherwise a good loaf of French baguette does the trick.
- 2 lb of lamb, any cut works, I like a cut up rack or neck pieces
- 1/2 large onion chopped finely
- 1 Tbsp crushed garlic
- 1/2 preserved lemon
- 2 tsp liquid from preserved lemons
- 1 1/2 tbsp ginger powder or 1 Tbsp fresh grated ginger
- 1 handful chopped Italian parsley
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 1 tsp black pepper
- pinch of saffron threads
- 4tsp water + more as needed
For the Eggplant Topping
- 1 large or 2 small eggplants
- 2 tsp vinegar
- vegetable oil for frying
- 6-8 Tbsp liquid from cooking tajine
Starting the Tajine
- In the bottom of a large tajine, add the olive oil and onions. Remember to follow all stovetop cooking directions for your tajine. Turn the heat to medium low and allow the tajine to heat up.
- Meanwhile, clean and trim the lamb you will be using.
- In a bowl add the preserved lemon liquid, ginger, black pepper, and garlic.
- In a smaller bowl crush the saffron threads between your fingers and put into the bowl. Add 2 tsp warm water and leave for about 5 minutes. Then, mix with the lemon mixture.
- Rub lamb pieces with the marinade, adding the chopped parsley to the top.
- Place the pieces of lamb into the tajine, arranging so that all the pieces fit when covered.
- Break up the preserved lemon with your fingers and slide into cavities all around the tajine.
- Add 2 tsp of water to the bottom of the tajine, cover, and leave it alone!
- After 1 1/2 hours check the tajine. There should be plenty of liquid from the meat cooking. If not, add some water.
To Prepare the Eggplant Topping
- Peel eggplant and cut into 1/2 inch rounds.
- Place the rounds into a large bowl full of salted water.
- In a deep fryer or a large pan, add enough oil so that the eggplant pieces will float.
- Heat on medium high, you'll know it's hot enough if you can add a drop of water and it sizzles.
- Remove several of the eggplant rounds and dry on a towel. Add them to the oil and fry until they are brown on both sides. Do not crowd the pan!
- Remove from the oil and place on a paper towel (or cloth towel) to absorb any excess oil.
- Continue until all of the eggplant has been fried.
- In a large frying pan, add all of the eggplants and 6-8 spoonfuls of the liquid from your cooking tajine.
- The eggplant will start to break down, add the vinegar at this point.
- Use a fork or wooden spoon to mash up the eggplant as it cooks. It should not be a liquid but more like a cooked salad.
- When the lamb has cooked through completely, and there is still some liquid remaining in the tajine, remove from the heat and add the eggplant to the top of the meat.
- Serve hot. This is usually eaten communally with plenty of bread to scoop up the meat and eggplant - don't forget an extra dip in the sauce before eating!