Alexandrian calamari tagine recipe

Mary Fawzy 2 April 2022

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 upa 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 dishanything 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

Ingredients: 

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) 

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 200
  2. Marinade the calamari in a mix of chopped garlic (3 cloves) and cumin. You don’t need to do this for long, but leave for at least 10 minutes before cooking. 
  3. Warm the oil in a pan to medium heat and saute the onions until translucent. Add the chopped peppers and saute for about 3 minutes until slightly soft. 
  4. Add the remaining chopped garlic, the celery with its leaves, the tomatoes, and if using, add the chili. Give a light mix in the pan, but do not leave cooking for too long before the next step, just enough to get the aromas of the celery and garlic.  
  5. Add the calamari into the pan and mix well. It’s going to release a lot of waterdon’t worry, this is normal. This means you don’t have to add much water to it later. 
  6. Add the tomato paste, mix everything together, and season with salt. If you’d prefer it a bit saucier, you can add a splash of water. Leave to simmer at a slow boil for 10 minutes. 
  7. Transfer to an oven-proof dish and bake uncovered in the oven for another 20 minutesuntil nice and grilled on top and the sauce has darkened and thickened.
  8. Top with coriander leaves and serve with rice. 

Read more: Potato Knödel & Sauerkraut recipe

Read more: Takeaway food recipes to make at home

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