Let’s have a pop quiz. What does the word “tagine” refer to? Most of the people we asked replied that a tagine is a traditional Moroccan dish, and they were right. Unfortunately, they didn’t win the game simply because a tagine is not just a dish, it is also an essential piece of cookware in Moroccan cuisine. In this post, we will explore the historical origins as well as the uses of the tagine both as cooking equipment and as a traditional dish.
Tagine – the dish
Originating from the Berbers, tagine is a traditional Moroccan stew, made of various types of meats and vegetables. It is slow cooked in a clay pot (tagine), which is placed on top of thick coals that are kept hot for several hours until the meal is prepared. Chicken, lamb or fish are most commonly used when making an authentic tagine, together with many vegetables providing colour and aroma to the dish. Several spices are also part of the recipe giving the meat strong, unique flavours. The preparation of any kind of tagine is long. Whenever a tagine was prepared for lunch, the woman of the family started all preparations right after breakfast was served to have everything ready on time. Tagines are the pride of Morocco, a fragrant, zesty delicacy, a tasty mixture of ingredients like meat, onions, carrots, potatoes and spices like saffron, cumin, ginger and cinnamon. At Zayane, we cook all tagines the traditional way. In our spring menu you can find chicken and monkfish tagines as well as our Chef’s specialty, the lamb shank tagine served with carrots and potatoes.
Tagine – the cookware
Tagine is a conical clay pot consisting of two parts – a flat, circular base with low sides and a cone shaped cover that is placed on the base while cooking. The conical part traps steam as the dish cooks but simultaneously allows it to circulate within the pot so that the food is cooked evenly. Therefore, due to the moisture created by the steam, a minimal amount of water or liquid is required to cook all ingredients. When cooking a tagine meal, the clay pot should be placed over hot charcoals, allowing some space between itself and the coal to avoid having the temperature rise too quickly. Apart from a very useful cooking tool, a portable oven as many describe it, the tagine is also a decorative piece. Sometimes the cone shaped cover is painted or glazed with wonderful colours and Moroccan drawings adding some colour to the kitchen. At Zayane we have a large collection of authentic tagines both decorated and plain! We are more than happy to show you what they look like and how they work whenever you come in for a bite!
Tagines are a delicious meal, great for any time of the year. The possibilities when cooking it are endless, given the various combinations of meat, vegetables, fish and spices that can be created. However, a large percentage of the deliciousness of this dish is attributed to the equipment used to cook it, the tagine. The unique way steam flows around the clay pot allows all ingredients to slightly caramelise and create a sweet and spicy flavoursome combination.