Beef Date Tajine Recipe
Posted on 17th of March, 2013 by Lévana
On a recent visit to Israel, I found fresh dates at Machane Yehuda in Jerusalem. There are few things more heavenly than fresh dates. My niece Mushkie had just gotten engaged, and we were scheduled to host a Sheva Brachot for her and her groom. I bought four pounds fresh dates, used all the restraint I could muster, and left them in my freezer back home until the time came. And the time did come, last night, when the dish I had just hatched was one of my greatest hits. I should still tell you that in the absence of fresh dates, which are very hard to find here, nice plump Medjool dates will do the trick beautifully. Super simple and festive Sephardi dish. You will make a sensation with this dish on Passover!
I was always reticent about using beef cheeks for stews because I had a hard time getting the meat rinsed to the point where it was acceptably salty, but I finally found a butcher who carries sensibly salted beef cheeks. They are are so fabulous for stews, but of course beef shoulder or lamb shoulder or shanks can be used here.
4 pounds beef cheeks or beef shoulder or lamb, cut in 1 1/2 inch chunks (if you are using shanks, leave them whole, about 8)
8 cups water
1/4 cup olive oil
2 large onions, sliced very thin (use a food processor)
2 teaspoons turmeric
2 good pinches saffron threads
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 inch piece fresh ginger, grated
1 teaspoon ground pepper, or less to taste
2 dozen Medjool dates (or fresh dates if they come your way)
Optional garnishes: Toasted sliced almonds ot toasted sesame seeds, and chopped parsley
Put the beef and water in a wide-bottom heavy pot, and bring to a boil. Reduce the flame and cook, covered, two hours. Check the liquid in the pot occasionally to make sure you have enough liquid (if not, add a little).
While the meat is cooking, heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the onions and fry on a medium flame, stirring occasionally, until very dark, about 20 minutes.
After the meat has cooked two hours, add the fried onions, turmeric, saffron, cinnamon, ginger and pepper. Cover again and cook 30 more minutes. Stir in the dates, and cook 30 more minutes. (Just to be clear: total cooking time for the whole dish: 3 hours).
Transfer the meat and the dates to a platter with a slotted spoon. Check the liquid in the pot. If it is too thin, reduce it on a high flame until thickened to the consistency of maple syrup. Pour this sauce all over the meat. Sprinkle with the garnishes, if desired. Serve hot.