Tagine – The Icon of Moroccan Cuisine

A tagine is a two-piece cooking vessel made of clay and shaped like an inverted funnel. The bottom section is the base, or saucer, and the top looks like a pointed hat. Tagines are typically associated with Moroccan cooking, although many other countries use them as well. The word “tagine” refers both to the cooking vessel as well as the food that’s cooked in it.

Tagine

Decorative tagines and plates for sell at the local market. Image credit: Katina Rogers

 

What’s So Special about a Tagine?

Tagines are similar to slow cookers in that most recipes call for cooking times of 1-1/2 hours or more. The special design of a tagine improves the texture and flavor of foods in two ways. As the food cooks and produces steam, moisture works its way up the sides of the lid until it reaches the top. Once there, it accumulates until it drips back down on the food, both basting it to keep it moist and redistributing the spices to more thoroughly flavor the food as well.

What Kind of Foods Can Be Cooked in a Tagine?

Most anything you can cook in a slow cooker can be cooked in a tagine. It is especially good for meats and vegetables that benefit from long cooking times at low temperatures.

Tagine

The word “tagine” refers both to the cooking vessel as well as the food that’s cooked in it. Image credit: FlavorOfAlgeria

Considerations for Purchasing a Tagine

Although their shape always remains the same, all tagines are not created equally. Some are quite delicate and can only be used in a cold oven that is slowly brought up to temperature. Others, however, can go from refrigerator to stovetop to hot oven without the associated risk of cracking or breaking.
Tagines also come in different sizes. Typically a tagine dish includes meat and vegetables, so keep this in mind when deciding on the size for your needs.

Tagine

Tagines are often ornately decorated and can be the showpiece of a Moroccan kitchen. Image credit: Katina Rogers

Recipe: Tagine Chicken with Chick Peas

Ingredients:

2 Tbl. olive oil
1 large sweet onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt & pepper
1 whole cut up chicken, most skin removed
1 can diced tomatoes, with juice
1 can chick peas, drained and rinsed
4 carrots, peeled and cut into long pieces
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1 cup water or chicken broth

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Sauté onions in olive oil until translucent. Add garlic. Season with salt and pepper and cook for five minutes more. (This can be done in the tagine on your stove top if you have a tagine that can handle it. Otherwise, use a skillet.)
  3. Remove onion mixture to a small bowl and set aside.
  4. Season chicken pieces liberally with salt and pepper. On medium-high heat, sear chicken until brown on all sides. Cook in batches if necessary.
  5. Cover bottom of tagine with onion mixture and stack chicken pieces on top, forming a pyramid. Place tomatoes, chick peas and carrots around the bottom of the pyramid.
  6. Dissolve the spices in the water or broth and pour over chicken.
  7. Put lid on tagine and bake in a 325 degree oven for two hours.