A vegetable tagine dish as served in a London restaurant
|Place of origin||Morocco|
A tagine (Arabic: طاجين tajin from the Persian: تابه) is a historically Berber dish from North Africa that is named after the special earthenware pot in which it is cooked. A similar dish, known as tavvas, is found in the cuisine of Cyprus. The traditional tagine 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 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. Tajines are also used and made in Morocco.
More recently,[when?] European manufacturers have created tagines with heavy cast-iron bottoms that can be heated on a cooking stove to a high temperature. This permits the browning of meat and vegetables before cooking.
Typically, a tagine is a rich stew of meat, chicken, or fish, and most often includes vegetables or fruit. Vegetables can also be cooked alone.
The use of ceramics in Moroccan cooking is probably a Roman influence. Romans likely brought ceramics to the area during their rule of Roman Africa.
Many ceramic tagines are exquisite examples of show pieces as well as functional cooking vessels. Some tagines, however, are intended only to be used as decorative serving dishes.
Unglazed clay tagines are favored by some for the unique earthy nuance they impart to dishes. Like their glazed counterparts, they come in all sizes. The smallest might hold enough food for one or two people, while the largest can hold a meal for eight people or more.
Moroccan Tagines or Stews
Tagines are primarily used to slow-cook savory stews and vegetable dishes. Because the domed or cone-shaped lid of the tagine traps steam and returns the condensed liquid to the pot, a minimal amount of water is needed to cook meats and vegetables to buttery-tenderness. This method of cooking is very practical in areas where water supplies are limited or where public water is not yet available.
The traditional method of cooking with a tagine is to place the tagine over coals. Large bricks of charcoal are purchased specifically for their ability to stay hot for hours. Smaller pieces of charcoal are reserved for cooking brochettes (Barbecue)and other grilled meats.
You can try cooking a tagine over charcoal (be sure to leave adequate space between the coals and the tagine or the temperature will be too high), but it's okay to use a tagine in a slow oven or place it on a gas or electric stove top. Use the lowest heat necessary to keep the stew simmering gently. A diffuser – a circular piece of aluminum placed between the tagine and burner – is highly recommended to buffer and more evenly distribute the stove's heat.
Persons without access to a tajine may replicate the typical stew by using a slow cooker or similar item; the result will be slightly different owing to the different geometry, but sufficiently similar to produce a good dish.
What Tunisians refer to as a "tagine" is very different from the Moroccan dish. Tunisian tagine is more like an Italian frittata. First, a simple ragout is prepared, of meat cut into very small pieces, cooked with onions and spices, such as a blend of dried rosebuds and ground cinnamon known as baharat or a robust combination of ground coriander and caraway seeds; this is called tabil. Then something starchy is added to thicken the juices. Common thickeners include cannellini beans, chickpeas, breadcrumbs or cubed potatoes. When the meat is tender, it is combined with whatever ingredient has been chosen to be the dominant flavoring. Examples include but are not limited to fresh parsley, dried mint, saffron, sun-dried tomatoes, cooked vegetables, or even stewed calves' brains. Next, the stew is enriched with cheese and eggs. Finally, this egg and stew is baked in a deep pie dish, either on the stove or in the oven until top and bottom are crisply cooked and the eggs are just set. When the tagine is ready, it is turned out onto a plate and sliced into squares, accompanied by wedges of lemon. Tunisian tagines can be made with seafood or as a completely vegetarian dish.
In rural parts of Tunisia, home cooks place a shallow earthenware dish over glowing olive wood, fill it, cover it with a flat earthen pan, and then pile hot coals on top. The resulting tajine is crusty on top and bottom, moist within, and is infused with a subtle smoky fragrance.
- "الطاجين المغربي يقاوم التشويه". BBC Arabic. 31 May 2008. Retrieved 12 December 2012.
- Fes Cooking. "The Art of Moroccan Cuisine (Tajin)". Retrieved 2012-08-02.
- Paula Wolfert. "Recipe for Tunisian Tajine". Retrieved 2008-04-18.
- Nancy Harmon Jenkins. "Divine Secrets of the Mahjoub Sisterhood". Retrieved 2008-04-27.
Media related to Tajine at Wikimedia Commons