Moroccan tagine or stew with thistle and fresh broad beans (El foul wel guernina)

Thistles or guernina is widely and wildly grown in Morocco. It has its season and we make a good use of it. Everything seems to be good in that rainy seasons where fennel, broad beans, cardoons, green beans and many other things are so abundant, cheap and at their best.

Tagine el guernina is a favourite family recipe especially my people in Fez.

A large bunch of thistle which usually shrinks in the cooking..

Thistle tagine or stew is cooked just like cardoons tagine. You may add fresh fava/broad beans to make it richer. You could replace beef with lamb, chicken or even meatballs. Just give those humble thistles a Moroccan treatment and you will never look at them the same way.


Some vegetables go very well with guernina stew (or tagine). You may add petit pois or fresh broad beans for a more comforting dish.

Last tip, use gloves to avoid your fingers some unecessary discoloration.


Thistles’ stew with lamb meat and fresh fava/broad beans

Serves 6 to 8 people
Prep: 20 min- Cooking 1.30 to 2 hours

  • 1 or 2 juicy lemons
  • 1 big bowl of water

For the stew/tagine

  • 1 kg of meat cuts (shoulder, legs, ideally tender with a bone)
  • 2 kgs of thistles
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, finelly chopped
  • 1 medium-size onion, finely chopped
  • 1 small bouquet of coriander and parsley
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp of vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp of ground ginger
  • 1 tsp of turmeric
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Enough water to cover the contents of the pressure cooker.

To garnish

  • Some green or purple olives (red)
  • 1 preserved lemon (peel only) diced or julienned
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped parsley


Preparation of thistles

First, prepare a bowl of lemony water: Juice 1 or 2 lemons in about 2 litres of water and set aside.

Peel the thistles by removing their skin/leaves as well as the stringy sides. Keep the bottom part of the plant as it can also be used (it’s actually my favourite).

You will be left with bright green branches that you should cut into 5 cm length. (see how we prepare cardoons as it’s almost the same logic).

Immediately place them in a bowl of lemony cold water to stop them from darkening.

Pre-peeled thistle ready to be cooked (sold in Moroccan markets)


In a pot, tagine or pressure cooker, Add a few tablespoons of water. Fold it the spices, the onions, the meat and stir for a few minutes, allowing the spices to be distributed. Add the coriander, oil and cover the ingredients with water. Cover the pot/tagine and let simmer over medium heat until meat has become tender.

Add the thistles and cover with water. Let cook covered for another 15 to 20 mines. Correct the seasoning.

Once all is cooked, add the lemon juice, some cuts of preserved lemon and some green or purple olives  and let the sauce reduce for another 10 minutes or more if needed.

Serve the meat first topped with thistles and sauce it to your liking.

Garnish with olives, preserved lemon and chopped parsley.


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