What Spices Are in a Moroccan Tagine?

Written by alice north
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What Spices Are in a Moroccan Tagine?
Spice blends are the key ingredient in Moroccan tagine dishes. (Buena Vista Images/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

The word tagine is used to describe both a glazed, earthenware vessel with a knob-like handle used for Moroccan cuisine and the food that is prepared and served in it. Tagine dishes are slow-cooked at low temperatures and can be made with meat, chicken, vegetables or fish. Traditional Moroccan spices are especially important in such dishes and are used in different combination depending on the other ingredients.

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Meat or Chicken Tagine

Meat tagine recipes usually call for less expensive cuts, such as lamb necks, shoulders or shanks, cooked until they are very tender and falling off the bone, but any meat or chicken can be used. Some recipes call for a combination of lamb and chicken, cooked with a medley of seasonings and other ingredients, which can include olives, fruits, legumes and fresh or preserved lemons. Spices traditionally usually to flavour meat or chicken tagines include cinnamon, saffron, ginger, turmeric, cumin, paprika and the Moroccan spice blend Ras el hanout, which in Arabic means "top of the shop." Such a blend typically would include cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, chilli peppers, coriander, nutmeg, peppercorn and turmeric. Ras el hanout is often rubbed on the meat or chicken before cooking.

Vegetable Tagine

Vegetable tagine is another popular Moroccan dish, and can be served as a side dish or main vegetarian course, along with couscous topped with almonds or pine nuts, sliced scallions and Greek-style yoghurt. These recipes generally call for a mixture of vegetables. These can include spring vegetables, such as eggplant, cauliflower and zucchini, or root vegetables, which might consist of carrots, celery, radishes, sweet potatoes and turnips. The vegetables are seasoned with fresh coriander, paprika, cumin, ginger, cinnamon, salt and whole peppercorns and often combined with brine-cured, chopped green olives. A spice blend for these recipes can be made as long as a week ahead of time and stored airtight at room temperature.

Fish Tagine

Firm white fish fillets, such as halibut, mahi mahi, sea bass or orange roughy, is recommended for a Moroccan fish tagine. Spices might include saffron threads (adjusted to taste), sweet paprika and cumin, and red finger chilli peppers combined with cilantro, garlic, flat-leaf parsley and garlic. In some fish tagine recipes, a tomato chermoula is used, consisting of olive oil, cloves, onions, crushed tomatoes, lemon juice, parsley, cumin, coriander and salt and pepper. This serves as marinade in which the fish is placed for at least two hours before cooking. The dish is ready once the fish flakes easily and the vegetables are tender. The reserved marinade may poured over the fish before serving.

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