Friday, September 27, 2013

Tfaya ~ my first Moroccan dish

In the few weeks since we have been here, JR, Yousef and I have joined Jeff for lunch at the faculty restaurant every Friday. And, every Friday we have been served the classic couscous with its many variations: meat, chicken or vegetarian. As it turns out Fridays are the couscous days.

The heaping bowl of carbs, protein and fiber is topped with a mouthwatering ladle of an onion concoction. At first I was not sure what it was, but then I dissected the ingredients and brought it down to onions, sugar, raisins and an assortment of spices. I decided to try it at home from memory.

The first time I tried it, I ended up with plain sautéed onions mixed with raisins and cinnamon. The next time I decided to research the cooking method. Not knowing what it was called, I searched for cinnamon raisin onions as a play on the cinnamon raisin bread or French toast we have back home. I yielded a result. The dish was called Tfaya: Moroccan Caramelized Onions with Raisins.

As it turned out the secret to cooking the onion was not sautéing them but rather boiling them, or rather braising them with the raisins and the spices. I played around with the recipe seeing that I did not have all the ingredients it called for and omitted completely the fat element it called for. It cooked for over an hour. When it was done the apartment smelled like apple pie and the living space was warm. I served it alongside chicken. It made for a novel side dish.


  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 2 lbs. onions
  • 1 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/3 cup water


Peel and thinly slice the onions. Transfer them to a pot along with the raisins, honey, spices and water. Cover and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for an hour or longer, stirring occasionally, until the onions are very soft and golden and the water evaporated. Add more water only if the liquids evaporate before the onions are cooked.

Once the onions are soft and richly colored, reduce the liquids to a thick syrup by removing the cover. Remove the caramelized onions from the heat and set aside until needed. Reheat if desired.


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