Tuck into this delightful recipe fresh from the shores of Egypt
Because my parents are from the Egyptian port city of Alexandria, I was exposed to many specifically Alexandrian dishes growing up—a city that has a distinct culinary style to the rest of the country.
People from all over Egypt love to travel to Alexandria for holidays, and while the beach may be the main draw, the food is part of what shapes people's fond memories of the city.
Of course, being right on the coast of the Mediterranean meant there were always bountiful and fresh seafood dishes. This is where you’ll find plenty of Egyptian dishes that aren’t very well known in the global idea of what mainstream Egyptian cuisine is.
One of my favorite Alexandrian dishes is this calamari tagine. Firstly, while tagine is more associated with Moroccan cuisine, it’s actually a food preparation method that involves making an oven-baked stew-like dish.
In Egypt, it’s pronounced with a “g” like in “gold” as opposed to a “j” sound, and it’s not usually associated with the Moroccan cooking vessel with the tall, conical lid. While traditionally, clay earthenware was used, today modern kitchens can use anything from a glass pyrex to a casserole dish—anything that can go in the oven will do!
This hearty meal is slow-cooked in a spiced tomato sauce until the calamari is tender, having absorbed all the flavor of the herbs and spices, making it an impressive but easy dish. It’s a great way to prepare calamari, a notoriously difficult product to cook with.
Served with rice, it’s great for a special family meal or dinner party and works in all seasons. This is one of those dishes that gets better overnight so it’s great for making ahead.
Tip: Calamari can sometimes get tough or rubbery when cooked, so a little trick I learned is to do a quick blanch in hot water (but not boilling) before cooking. Add hot water, then remove the calamari immediately. This helps tenderise it.
Cooking time: 1 hour (20 minutes prep, 40 minutes cooking)
Serves 4 to 6
500 g calamari (tubes or rings, or sliced steak)
1 onion (chopped)
6 cloves of garlic
3 stalks of celery with leaves (chopped)
2 bell peppers, any colour (chopped)
2 chopped tomatoes
2 red chillis (optional)
150 g tomato paste
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tbsp olive oil
A handful of coriander leaves (or extra celery leaves)
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