If you haven’t heard of tagine before, you will be delighted by this discovery. Tagine is a two-piece earthenware pot used for cooking and it traditionally comes from North African Berber tribes. It is still very present in the national cuisines of Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria and its popularity has spread all over the globe. We give you the reasons why.
The traditional tagine pot is ceramic and consists of two parts: a flat circular base unit with low sides and a large cone-shaped cover that sits on top of the base during cooking so that the condensation can trickle back from the walls down to the bottom. The pots are usually glazed and painted, there is a variety of colors to choose from and some are beautifully hand-painted with elaborate traditional designs. The artwork adds to the unusual look of tagines and in addition to being highly efficient in cooking, they also serve as great decoration for the table.
Tagines are designed for slow cooking as they were traditionally placed over charcoal leaving an adequate space between the coals and the tagine pot to avoid having the temperature rise too fast. This provided optimal moisture retention and the cooking could be compared to simmering which means fall-off-the-bone meat stews. Typical tagine dishes are slow-cooked savory stews made with vegetables, fruit and meat. They are served with bread.
Rich flavors and tastes
Since the cone-shaped lid of the tagine pot lets the steam stay inside the pot and trickle back down into the base, a minimal amount of water is required to cook meats and veggies and they release their own juices. All the rich flavors are preserved and intensified by the addition of spices, nuts and fruits, commonly ginger, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, saffron and paprika. The slow simmering creates amazing sauces bursting with flavor. The sweet and sour combination is typical in dishes like lamb with dates.
Variety of uses
Tagine pots can be used in many ways as long as you make sure you are using the lowest heat possible and leave it cooking for two to three hours. If you have barbecue in your back yard, you can use it traditionally, over charcoals. If not, a tagine can be used in a slow oven or on a electric or gas stove top, but on the lowest heat possible. Recently, European manufactures have created tagines with cast-iron bottoms that can be heated on a high temperature on a cooking stove, and these can be found in Peter’s of Kensington shops. There are also smaller size tagines that are intended to be used as decorative serving dishes only.
If you can’t experience a culture directly by visiting and immersing yourself in it, the second best way is to prepare their recipes in the way they do, in traditional pots, with specific spices and ingredients. We might not be able to feel the sun and the winds of the Sahara, the dryness of the air and temperature variations, but we can enjoy the bold flavors through their tagine recipes. Moroccan delicacies, Halal and saffron sauces are bound to transport you into this amazing culture at least for a day.
We are sure you will fall in love with tagines as soon as you try them out. They will not only provide you with healthy meals abundant in exotic flavors, but they will also add to the general décor of your kitchen and impress your dinner guests.