Play it once, Sam. For old times’ sake.


Play it once, Sam. For old times' sake.

Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman) and Sam (Dooley Wilson)
in  Casablanca  (Michael Curtiz 1942)


Over the years I have cooked with a variety of different nationalities and ethnic groups. The Malays in Brunei and Malaysia, Chinese in Malaysia and Singapore, Indian, Pakistani and Iranians in Dubai. I have cooked in Bali, Nigeria, all over the Middle East and some North Africa, and also North America and naturally Europe.

And, NO …. as the intro may suggest, I never cooked in Morocco. Never even been there. Not even close. But, I have watched the movie more than a few times.


It still rings in my ears, this phrase. I have no idea what romanticism it is that brings it back. I have never been to Casablanca. Not even close.

I have received a Tajine pot the other day. And this is what image comes to my mind:

Souks, markets, people, exotic flavours and scents, like the open-air bazaar on Jemaa el Fna Square, perhaps the best-known attraction in Marrakech, Morocco’s second largest city. I never never been to Marrakech. Not even close.

But I dreamt about it. I have envisioned and I did smell the spices and pickles of Arabia and the Orient. I have been to many a souk in my life, and one of the attractions ALWAYS are the spices, the colours, the tickle in the nose, when you walk through the tight passages.

This amazing image was taken by Jiří Dokoupil

The first thing I imagine is a pot. A hot cooking pot with something amazing cooking away. Meat, chicken, fish, shrimps or just about anything that would fit in a pot. So, here I was, with my Tajine, straight from Morocco, and my dreams.

A tajine, or tagine, is a Berber dish from North Africa, that is named after the special earthenware pot in which it is cooked. The traditional tajine pot is formed entirely of a heavy clay, which is sometimes painted or glazed. It consists of two parts: a base unit that is flat and circular with low sides, and a large cone or dome-shaped cover that sits on the base during cooking. The cover is so designed to promote the return of all condensation to the bottom. With the cover removed, the base can be taken to the table for serving.

Moroccan tajines combine lamb or chicken with olives, quinces, apples, pears, apricots, raisins, prunes, dates, nuts, with fresh or preserved lemons, with or without honey, with or without a complexity of spices. Traditional spices that are used to flavour tajines include ground cinnamon, saffron, ginger, turmeric, cumin, paprika, pepper, as well as the famous spice blend ras el hanout. Turkey meat is also sometimes used.[2] Some famous tajine dishes are mqualli or mshermel (both are pairings of chicken, olives and citrus fruits, though preparation methods differ), kefta (meatballs in an egg and tomato sauce), and mrouzia (lamb, raisins and almonds).

No, I will not provide a recipe at this point. Do your research. Have fun reading through as many tajin-recipes as you can stand, and make up your own mind on how you would want to cook this chicken, lamb, fish or meat. Go crazy with the flavours. Pickled lemons, saffron, green olives are NOT to be left out. Be as adventurous as you can stand, and add a little more.

I did serve my chicken-tajine with saffron-rice with a chopped onion and some zereshk (barberries), it’s a bit Iranian, just because I am not a particular fan of couscous. But hey, if couscous is what you fancy, then go for it. Or even better, have it with some Barbari-bread (Iranian Bread).

The only thing now, is to enjoy your your master piece. Take your time and savour it. Best done with friends and family around …. of course …. but you already knew that.


Bi Siha Wa Aafia




Published by ChefThomas

… born in Upper Austria’s Wels, I have done most of my growing up in Vienna. Only by sheer accident did I fall into the trade of Pâtissier. After a short apprentice ship at a Viennese Bakery, I was accepted for apprentice ship, at "K.u.K. Hofzuckerbäcker Demel’s Söhne", one of the oldest patisseries in Vienna. Learning the trade from the very basics, as the Emperor two Centuries ago would have expected from a "Pâtissier to the Royal and Imperial Court" (That is what the older Pâtissier still calls himself). I soon took to travel the world. From patisseries in America, to hotels in the Far East, Africa and the Middle East, did I accumulate a wealth of experience, ranging from bakeries to first class restaurants in major hotels to banquets for Presidents, Sultans and Heads of States and other famous, infamous and not so famous people. But the true excitement for me is in the "Viennese Café". Not just as an occupation, but as an institution in it own right.

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