13 October 2009

Tajine of sweet potatoes and veal

At Paris-Store up in Blois the other day we bought a couple of big sweet potatoes. We can get sweet potatoes at the supermarkets here in Saint-Aignan fairly often, but the ones a Paris-Store are a lot less expensive — 1.50 € a kilo, compared to 2.79 € or more at the local supermarkets.

The question then was what to do with them. Just bake them and have them with melted butter? Puree them and have them as a side dish? Make a pie?

Onions are a basic ingredient in tajines.

As usual, the Internet provided the answer. The idea of making a sweet potato tajine [tah-ZHEEN] came to me, and I found a couple of recipes pretty fast. The first one was for a tajine of sweet potatoes and veal, and I had a package of cut up veal shoulder in the freezer, waiting for an opportunity.

It's nice to be able to get good sweet potatoes.
These were white, not yellow, inside.

Tajines are easy to make. The main thing you need is the North African spices — some combination of turmeric, cinnamon, cumin, ginger, nutmeg, cayenne pepper, and others. Curry powder would serve the purpose, with a little extra cinnamon and ginger added.

Veal shoulder — but boneless chicken or turkey
thigh meat would be good too.

A tajine is meat and vegetables, or just vegetables, simmered in water and broth with all those spices until all the flavors mingle and the ingredients are well cooked and succulent. It's a Moroccan-style stew, often cooked in an earthenware dish. Usually there are raisins, almonds, or dried apricots in the sauce for added richness.

Brown the meat, onions, and garlic with
the spices, and then add water.

I used veal in the tajine I made yesterday, but it would be really good with chicken thighs, for example, or some other pieces of chicken or turkey. The advantage of veal is that it is boneless and cooks up very tender. Turkey or chicken breast might be dry. But boneless thighs would be really good.

Tajine of sweet potatoes and veal with Moroccan spices

Here's the recipe:
Tajine of sweet potatoes and veal

2 lbs. veal, cut into 1" pieces
2 large sweet potatoes
2 large onions, sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
½ cup raisins
6 dried apricots, cut into dice
2 Tbsp. fresh chopped coriander or basil
3 Tbsp. olive oil
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. sweet paprika
pinches of cumin, cayenne pepper, and cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. black pepper

Peel and slice the onions and chop the garlic. Saute them along with the meat, the garlic, and all the spices spices in 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a big pot. Brown the meat and onions well, stirring to keep them from sticking. Then pour in enough water the just cover the meat. Put a lid on the pot and let it cook on low heat for 90 minutes, or until the meat is tender.

Meanwhile, peel the sweet potatoes and cut them into big chunks.

When the meat is close to done, add the sweet potatoes, raisins, and dried apricots to the stew and turn up the heat just a little. Let that simmer, covered, for 30 or 40 minutes longer, adding water as necessary to keep it all moist but not soupy. When the sweet potatoes are done, it's ready.
We made some roasted millet, which is cooked like rice, to go with our tajine yesterday, but it would be very good with couscous or even rice. Or just as it is — the potatoes are starchy, after all. It was good and filling, and I'm sure the leftovers will be even better today or tomorrow.


  1. Yummmm. I'm going to try this, looks fabulous!

    Donna in SF

  2. Good recipe for fall weather.
    It might actually rain in Los Angeles tomorrow.

  3. Rain in L.A., Nadège. But "they say it never rains in Southern California." Do you know that song?

    The temperature here is supposed to go down close to freezing by the weekend. We're cooking autumn foods.

  4. Depending on where you live in Southern California, that is.

    In my opinion, LA would be a lousy place to live for many reasons, if only for the pollution.

    Here, in my SoCal, it's in the 80s. It's supposed to reach 100°F on Saturday. Wow! Love it!! And, of course, no rain in sight for the foreseeable future.

  5. No vegetable garden, I guess, CHM. 100º is too hot even for tomatoes. Not to mention lettuce or other greens. A chacun son goût, et chacun pour soi !

  6. Monsieur Charles-Henri, I can't keep up with you. Are you in Paris, DC... and now in SoCal?
    Completely agree with you about LA.
    It's ugly and polluted... Could be one of the reason why I wanted to stay in France this summer; but the people are very nice and it is such a hodgepodge of cultures (cuisines) that it taught me to be more open. One question : what does MDR mean?

  7. I'm suspicious of that sweet potato with white meat;-) Your tajine looks delicious and perfect for fall weather.

    Here in Alabama we have rain. We are no longer in a drought which is a good thing. I don't think we're in danger of frost for several weeks and our air conditioner was running last Saturday.

    I had to google MDR, but we let CHM explain meaning to you Nadege.

  8. Nadège, MDR means "mort de rire" — the French for LOL (not "little old lady" but "laughing out loud." Is the pollution really that bad where you live? You're close to the coast, no? In SF, there wasn't much pollution, at least not near the ocean where we were.

  9. Evelyn, Wikipedia says the flesh of sweet potatoes ranges in color from white to yellow to orange to purple. I too prefer the orange ones, which is what we had in North Carolina — a major producer state — but here in France you are as likely to get the white-fleshed variety as anything else. I usually break the skin of sweet potatoes with a fingernail before buying them to see what color they are inside, but this time I forgot. Fact is, I probably would have bought them anyway, even if I had known.

  10. Ken, you're right about tomatoes. Too much work, here in the desert, to keep them growing. If I had time, I'd grow the kind of cactus the Mexicans eat. They say it tastes like green beans. I tried it once and wasn't really impressed, even though I'm open to any new experience. Maybe I should try again!

    Hello Nadège. I'm now in my winter retreat, "mes quartiers d'hiver," for six months. And enjoying every nanosecond of it! As Ken says, MDR means either "à Mourir De Rire" or "Mort De Rire."

    Hello Evelyn.
    What would we do without access to Google, either Google.com or Google.fr.

    I have had white sweet potatoes and they do not taste as good as the orange ones, which, in my opinion, are the best when puréed with a little nutmeg, some butter and cream, salt and pepper. NO sugar added!!!

    P.S. White sweet potatoes, for some unknown reason, are sold here under the name of yams, which, of course, they are not!

  11. This whole sweet potato vs. yam thing is very confusing. The real African yam is not something you can find often in the U.S.

    But now they are selling white-fleshed sweet potatoes under the name "yam"? This North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission web page says just the opposite. It says: What we call "Yams in the United States are actually sweet potatoes with relatively moist texture and orange flesh." And I think most Americans think of orange-fleshed sweet potatoes as "yams" -- cf. "candied yams."

    In America, words don't really mean much. This morning, I was reading about "boneless chicken wings" in the U.S., a new fad. They are actually strips of chicken breast cooked in the style of the "traditional" Buffalo-style chicken wings. Never mind that they are not wings at all...

  12. Here is another web site about sweet potatoes. It says: "Sweet potato varieties are classified as either ‘firm’ or ‘soft’. When cooked, those in the ‘firm’ category remain firm, while ‘soft’ varieties become soft and moist. It is the ‘soft’ varieties that are often labeled as yams in the United States."

  13. Thank you Ken for the very informative links.

    It should be noted that the scientific name of the sweet potato is Ipomoea batatas. That is probably the origin of the name "patates" given in French also to potatoes. Of course, sweet potatoes are called "patates douces" and not "pommes de terre douces."

  14. I guess that as much as yams and sweet potatoes tend to be interchangeable in North America ( Thank you Ken for the site that differentiates them), there is also the confusion between cassava versus yams in the rest of the world. Cassava is known also as manioc in some SA countries but they are also available in Asia and some islands in the ROW. I have been told that cassava is tastier than yams though I won't know since I have tasted only cassava cooked in both sugar as a snack or boiled in salted water and eaten with a tomato, chilli and herbs salsa sauce.

  15. Ken, you treat sweet potatoes like I do chocolates- take a peek inside;-) lol.

    I'd be looking for orange inside just like you, but don't have to do that here since our 'taters are all orange here in 'Bama!

    I like sweet potatoes anyway you prepare them. The pies and soufflés are really good...


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