Tagine Berraniya and what a story behind it!

This and many similar dishes falling under Berraniyya or bouraniya are reputed to be named after Bourane, the daughter of Hasan Ibn Sahl and the wife of great Calife Al Mamoun (813-833 AD)..
According to the Oxford companion of food, this eggplant dish has spread to all the medieval Islamic lands and Buran’s name has been applied to a vast range of dishes descended from it. In Spain, in the Balkans as well as the Muslim lands extending from Morocco to India.
By the 13th century, the dish had become Burraniyyah or Berraniya. The name didn’t refer anymore to one dish but a category of dishes..
However, Arto der Hartununian in his book “ North African cookery” said the following about it:  Bourane (where Bouraniyat or Berraniya seems to come from) was the daughter of King Khosrow Parviz of Persia and this type of dish seemed to have flourished some 300 years before its Arab counterpart.
Although the original dish had yoghurt in it, somehow, it does not appear in the Maghribi (Morocco to Lybia) version of it.
According to him, the Middle Eastern borani/porani has travelled to the East as biryani and to the West as bouraniyat..
Being a big fan of Biryani, I can’t relate to it but maybe things change so much and get adapted so much that they might look so different after all these centuries..
To add more spice to the story, berraniya in Arabic refers to “Stranger” or “Foreigner”..whatever the origin of the name, let’s just appreciate this beautiful combination..

Now here is a version of this dish from an Afghani perspective. How about here?


Besides Zaalouk, our national cooked aubergine salad, I would never go for anything else having this vegetable in it. But my palate has gone a few miles away from this and I incorporated baba ghanouj to my list, all zaalook’s versions and this amazing dish.
There are many ways to make berraniya (let’s use this word for the rest of the post). You can make it lighter, add tomatoes, or just top it up with zaalouk. However, the most common recipe remains the one I’ll be posting today.
A simple version of berraniya which consists of cooking the stew and topping it with unmashed fried eggplant/aubergine. You may serve it will lemon, then the guest will squeeze it on top 
There is something about the addition of lemon juice to this dish that makes it come to life. You won’t have the impression you are eating aubergines but rather little bits of mushroom like Paula Wolfert nicely describes it in her book “Couscous and other good food from Morocco”.
Now what is the tactic to tackle this dish and eat it the way we do? How would you enjoy this? Well, like all the Moroccan stews and tagines, take a mouthful piece of bread, scoop a bit of topping and dip it in the sauce then straight to your mouth..The roughly mashed aubergines topping has to be mixed with the sauce before it hits your mouth.


A version of Berraniya with zaalook-style on top. Instead of the lemon juice, the tomatoes balance the dish with their acidity.

This recipe will be part of Serena and Ariana’s June’s event “La via dei sapori“, featuring the Cuisine of Morocco. I’m excited to be part of it..


Serves 4 
Prep: 15 min- cooking: 75 min (each step can be made ahead)
  • 800g of shoulder of lamb cut into 4 chunks (replace with chicken but reduce the cooking time)
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 medium-size onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp of vegetable oil
  • Salt to taste (keep in mind lemon juice will be added later on)
  • 1/2 tsp of ground pepper (I use a mixture of black and white)
  • A good pinch of saffron threads, roasted and crushed between the palms of your hands
  • 1 leveled tsp of turmeric
  • 1 tsb of ground ginger
  • 1 tsp of paprika (optional), in this case do not use saffron threads.
  • 5 sprigs of parsley and 5 sprigs of coriander (form a bouquet) + 1 tbsp of the same herbs, chopped
  • Water for the cooking pot (see recipe)
  • Juice of 1 small lemon (about 2 tbsps)
Aubergine/Eggplant topping
  • 3 large aubergines, tailed, peeled in alternative strips and cut crossways (see recipe below)
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 tbsp of salt
  • 2 tbsps of oil (mix olive oil with vegetable oil)
  • A pinch of cumin (optional)
  • Juice of a small lemon (about 2 tbsps)


  • Parsley or coriander leaves
  • Lemon wedges
Make the stew (1 hour to 2 hours depending on the cooking method)
Sear the meat in hot oil from all sides. If you are using chicken, you don’t need to sear it.
Start by adding a couple of tablespoons of water to the tagine or the pot. Layer the meat and the onion, the rest of the spices and the herbs bouquet, cover 3/4 with water and cover. If you are going to use a Dutch oven or any cooking pan/tagine, adjust the water and time accordingly.
In all conditions, the meat is ready when it’s tender and the sauce nicely reduced and thickened. Season to taste.
Cook the aubergines/eggplants

The aubergines can be added to cook in the same meat sauce after this one has become tender. However I will tell you about how I we like it in our family.

Slice the aubergine between 5 mm to 1 cm thick OR dice them into cubes of about 1 cm. Sprinkle them with salt, cover and set aside for 20 to 30 min. Once you squeeze them, you will get some water out which will get rid of their bitterness.

As for the cooking, you can also go two ways here: either you shallow-fry them from both sides until cooked through then squeeze them to render the oil, or you steam them for 10 min over boiling water and then use about 1 tablespoon of oil to fry them from each side..I like the second version .

Take a knife and go through the mass of aubergines/eggplants, cut them until they get mashy but you can still see bits of the vegetable. Re-cook the mash in a hot pan over medium heat with garlic, stir for 3 or 4 minutes.

Once the aubergine mix has cooled, stir in the lemon juice.
Assemble the dish
Anytime (even after 3 days), Heat both the stew and the aubergine mash. Bear in mind that tagine cooking needs to be eaten the same day.
Stir the lemon juice in the sauce then assemble stew with the aubergine topping together as in the picture. Garnish with leaves of parsley or coriander.
Plan for more lemon wedges to be served on the side.

Note: I was just reminded by a friend of mine (who is originally from Oujda) that berraniya has become the synonym of eggplants/aubergine in the Eastern region of Morocco.

One thought on “Tagine Berraniya and what a story behind it!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s