Thinking of Moroccan food immediately brings to mind images of spicy succulent slow cooked meat dishes served directly on the table in a tagine. But what is a tagine? And which one is best for you?
The word tagine refers to both the food that’s cooked inside the dish and the conical shaped dish itself. Dishes such as a lamb, fig and almond tagine, chicken and apricot tagine or a chermoula fish tagine are just some delicious examples of tagine cooking. Traditionally, in Morocco, the ingredients were packing into the tagine, the lid placed on top and then slow cooked on the fire – it’s a Moroccan version of the good old slow cooker!
There are many different types of tagines, but they all work in the same way. The ingredients are put in, the lid goes on, it is placed either on the stovetop or in the oven and it all cooks while the steam swirls and escapes through the small hole at the top.
Below is a list of the four most common types you can buy.
Metal Based Tagines
These have bases which are made of stainless steel, cast iron griddle or sometimes non-stick metal surfaces. The lid is made of glazed ceramic. The metal provides an even heat distribution and makes them easy to clean. They can be used either on the stove top or in the oven.
Unglazed earthenware Tagines
These are the more traditional tagines, they retain heat fairly well and give the food a wonderful rich, earthy flavor. Earthenware tagines need to be seasoned before their first use to remove the earthenware “taste” that can flavor the finished dish.
How to Season a Tagine?
- Rub the inside of the base and lid with oil
- Preheat oven to 150 Celsius
- Half fill the base with water
- Add chopped onion, carrot, garlic, dried bay leaves and oil (Here are some great garlic presses for you!)
- Cover with the lid
- Cook in the oven for 30 – 40 minutes
- Cool the mixture to room temperature
- Discard the mixture
- The dish is ready to use
These tagines are best used in the oven because they may crack if placed on the direct heat of the stovetop. It is possible to use them on the stove but you’ll need a heat diffuser (available at most kitchenware stores). After cooking you should hand wash only as these tagines can be fragile, make sure that you cool it to room temperature first – a sudden temperature change can cause it to crack.
Glazed Ceramic Tagines
It is possible to use these both in the oven and on the stovetop. They’re easy to clean and dishwasher safe too. It’s best to season these before their first use, which will allow the ceramic to slowly expand and adjust to being heated. Always follow the manufacturer’s guide – most recommend seasoning with milk or water only.
These are beautiful, decorative dishes and look fantastic on the table. They are specifically designed for serving only and may break or crack if you cook in them.
These are the four most common tagines that you will find available for sale in your local kitchenware store. Give it a try, like most slow cooking methods, making a tagine is easy and requires very little work from the cook – the pot does it all for you!
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