If you’ve never cooked with cardoons before, a commonly used veggie in North African cuisine, this savory recipe for Cardoon Beef Tagine is a good way to start. It comes from Jennifer McLagan’s new book, Bitter: A Taste of the World’s Most Dangerous Flavor, with Recipes.
Jennifer suggests pairing this Moroccan-style dish with bread or potatoes to soak up the sauce, which she says is the best part of the dish. She comes on Good Food this week to talk about her new book.
21⁄2 pounds / 1.2 kg stewing beef, with a good amount of fat
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon beef drippings, or more olive oil
2 onions, halved and sliced
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1⁄2 teaspoon turmeric
3 large cloves garlic, germs removed, sliced
1 cup / 250 ml water
21⁄4 pounds / 1 kg cardoons
1⁄2 cup / 100 g kalamata olives
1 preserved lemon
1 cup / 1⁄2 ounce / 15 g cilantro (coriander) leaves, chopped
Preheat the oven to 300°F / 150°C.
Cut the meat into large pieces, about 2 inches / 5 cm. Pat the meat dry and season well with salt and pepper. In a heavy flameproof casserole or Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil and all the fat over medium-high heat. When it is hot, brown the beef in batches, transferring the pieces to a plate as they brown.
Lower the heat and add the onions. Stir well, using the moisture from the onions to deglaze the pan. Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil only if necessary. Add the paprika, ginger, cumin, and turmeric with a good amount of black pepper, about 20 turns of the pepper grinder. Continue to cook, stirring, until the onions soften slightly and you can smell the spices.
Add the garlic and water, stirring to deglaze the pan again. Return the beef with any juices to the pan and bring to a boil. Cover the surface of the meat with a piece of wet parchment paper, place the lid on the pot, transfer to the oven, and cook for 11⁄2 hours.
While the beef is cooking, prepare the cardoons and cut them into 1⁄2 by 3-inch / 1 by 7.5-cm pieces; place in a bowl. Cover with water and squeeze in the juice of the lemon, then toss in the squeezed halves.
Remove the pan from the oven. Drain the cardoon pieces and stir them into the beef mixture with 1 teaspoon of salt. There will be a lot of cardoons, and the cooking liquid will not cover them; it doesn’t matter. Cover again with the parchment paper and the lid, then return to the oven and cook for another 30 minutes. Stir again to mix the cardoons into the cooking liquid. Cover with the parchment and the lid again and cook another 30 minutes, or until the cardoons and beef are tender.
Rinse the olives, then remove the pits by hitting the olives with the flat side of a chef’s knife. Cut the preserved lemon into quarters, remove the pulp, and discard. Cut the preserved lemon into matchstick-size pieces.
Stir the olives and lemon into the beef mixture and cover just with the lid this time; return to the oven for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with the chopped cilantro and serve with couscous.
Cardoons are not always available, so try this dish with celery instead. The flavor is different but still good, and it will improve your opinion of cooked celery. You will, however, still have to spend time removing the strings from the celery stalks.
My husband said I have to point out that you could also make this same recipe using rutabaga. Cut it into good-size chunks so the pieces stay whole.
Photo by Aya Brackett.