Here is a brief explanation of what a tagine pot is. The pot pictured here is one we have. From Wikipedia,
“A tajine, or tagine (Berber: tajin), is a dish from North Africa, principally Morocca, 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 tajine 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 rests inside the base during cooking. The cover is so 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.”
Well, that’s nice, but what is so special about the preparation? I’m glad you asked.
“Tajines in Moroccan cuisine are slow-cooked stews braised at low temperatures, resulting in tender meat with aromatic vegetables and sauce. They are traditionally cooked in the tajine pot, whose cover has a knob-like handle at its top to facilitate removal. While simmering, the cover can be lifted off without the aid of a mitten, enabling the cook to inspect the main ingredients, add vegetables, mix the contents, or add additional braising liquid.
Most tajines involve slow simmering of less-expensive meats. For example, the ideal cuts of lamb are the neck, shoulder or shank cooked until it is falling off the bone. Very few Moroccan tajines require initial browning; if there is to be browning it is invariably done after the lamb has been simmered and the flesh has become butter-tender and very moist. In order to accomplish this, the cooking liquid must contain some fat, which may be skimmed off later.
Moroccan tajines often combine lamb or chicken with a medley of ingredients or seasonings: olives, quinces, apples, pears, apricots, raisins, prunes, dates, nuts, with fresh or preserved lemons, with or without honey, with or without a complexity of spices. Traditional spices that are used to flavour tajines include ground cinnamon, saffron, ginger, turmeric, cumin, paprika, pepper, as well as the famous spice blend Ras el hanout. Some famous tajine dishes are mqualli or mshermel (both are pairings of chicken, olives and citrus fruits, though preparation methods differ), kefta (meatballs in an egg and tomato sauce), and mrouzia (lamb, raisins and almonds).
Other ingredients for a tajine may include any product that braises well: fish, quail, pigeon, beef, root vegetables, legumes, even amber and agarwood. Modern recipes in the West include pot roasts, osso buco, lamb shanks and turkey legs. Seasonings can be traditional Moroccan spices, French, Italian or suited to the dish.”
The plated photo is a Tagine of Lamb with Preserved Lemon and Olives on Couscous that Robin and I made last night. If you would like two tagine recipes, I have placed them in the Master Recipe List on this blog. One of the recipes is the one pictured here and another is for a Tagine of Chicken. But think also of doing maybe lamb shanks or beef shanks in a tagine style of cooking. An osso buco modified. Yum-O! And to spice this dinner up we served a 2000 San Sebastian Castillo Red wine from a St Augustine, Florida winery. One of the oldest wineries in the United States. This was a great premium red table wine that went extremely well with the spices of the lamb. We bought our tagine from Sur la Table online. You can spend upwards of $200.00 on one of these, but check the prices out listed on the web page. The one we have is a terra cotta one and it is plenty large enough for us. It can serve 4-6 people and is a 13″ size. We paid $24.95 for ours and now I see they are about $10 cheaper. Oh well! And just one last thing: There are at least two different spellings for tagine or tajine. Cheers and have fun with this cuisine.