This article tells how to use a tajine, a traditional Berber cooking vessel from Morocco. It describes how a tajine works, how to clean one, how to prepare a new tajine for use and how to cook with it.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Easy
Things you need
- Gas stove or charcoal brazier
- Ingredients for a tajjine recipe
Learn the history and special features of the tajine. Terra-cotta cooking vessels with an unusual conical lid, tagines are used by the nomadic Berber of Morocco and North Africa. Food cooked in a tagine, ordinarily stews containing lamb, chicken or fish, is also called tagine. The tagine cooks with little fluid, water being scare for desert nomads. There are both cooking and serving versions of the tagine. The cooking tagine is traditionally heated by charcoal, although modern versions, some with cast iron bottoms, are marketed for Western kitchens. Traditional, unglazed terra-cotta tagines can be heated over a diffused gas flame; they should be washed by hand in soapy warm water. Unglazed tagines come in many sizes; after frequent use they give the food an earthy taste highly prized by many in North Africa. A glazed tagine can be heated in the oven and washed in a dishwasher. The colourfully decorated, glazed serving tagines are not intended for cooking.
Understand how a tajine cooks food. Circulating steam condenses inside the conical lid of a tagine. Simmering food slowly in circulating steam, sometimes for hours, helps keep it from drying out and infuses it with oils and spices. Cheap cuts of meat are made tender by the lengthy simmering. Some recipes call for the meat to be browned first.
Season your tajine for its first use. To prepare a new unglazed tagine, begin by soaking it in water for one to two hours. Then rub olive oil around the base and inside the lid. Put the tagine in a cold oven and heat the oven to 177 degrees Celsius. After two hours take the tagine out of the oven. Let it cool. Wash it with warm soapy water. Coat the inside with olive oil before you store it.
Find a recipe suitable for a tajine. Lamb, fish, chicken and vegetable tagine recipes can be found at the sites listed in Resources.
Cook your food in a tajine. Do not put a tagine over high heat; it can crack. Layer your ingredients. Begin with the meat, onions, oil and seasonings. Meat is not ordinarily browned before cooking, instead it is cooked with onions until the onions are tender but now browned. This allows seasonings to better penetrate the meat.
Add water or stock. Add vegetables after the meat is tender and well seasoned. The food is done when the liquid is reduced and both the meat and vegetables are tender. Cooking in a tajine is a form of slow cooking. How long you cook a dish depends on what kind of meat you use. Tough cuts of goat take the longest. How long you cook lamb or beef depends on the cut of meat. Chicken takes less time. Fish cooks fastest of all. Cooking times will range from 45 minutes to two and a half hours, depending on the kind of meat and the cut. A loin cut will cook faster than one from the flank or rump. Recipes usually call for cooking times of an hour to an hour and a half. Add vegetables with half hour or less of cooking time remaining, depending on the vegetables and how soft you want them.
The basics of using a tajine
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