This is my tagine. I bought it at Sur La Table for under thirty dollars. There were other tagines that were far more expensive, but I wanted one that was ceramic and perhaps closer to what you might find in North Africa.
Using a tagine was my next step into North African cooking after learning to cook brik. I like the idea of bringing food to the table in the same vessel in which it was cooked. Because the tagine is ceramic, it must be soaked in water before use to prevent cracking. While cooking, I also set my tagine in my cast iron skillet to both distribute the heat better and to prevent the tagine from coming into contact with an open flame.
Tagine is not only the name of the cookware, but also of the dishes prepared in it. Here are two recipes that I like. The first is from The Momo Cookbook: A Gastronomic Journey Through North Africa by Mourad Mazouz. The second is from Simply Shrimp by James Peterson. I highly recommend purchasing both books.
Both recipes call for pickled lemons.
Chicken Tagine with Olives and Pickled Lemons
3 lbs 5 oz oven-ready chicken (I like to use drumsticks)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
4 1/2 oz purple or green cracked olives, stoned
1 1/2 pickled lemons
1 3/4 oz butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3 1/2 fl oz prepared saffron
18 fl oz water
3 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander
3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaved parsley
Sprinkle the chicken with half the salt and pepper.
Blanch the olives three times by plunging them into boiling water. Leave to boil for 30 seconds, rinse and repeat these two steps twice more. Change the boiling water each time. Drain the olives and set aside.
Remove and discard the flesh and pips from the pickled lemons. Rinse the peel and dry with kitchen paper, then cut in large slices. Keep aside in a small dish.
Heat the tagine. Melt the butter and oil, then add the onion and fry gently, stirring frequently until softened and translucent. Add the garlic, ginger, saffron (make sure you prepare it correctly), the remaining salt and pepper and water. Stir well. Add the chicken and turn it over to coat it with the sauce.
Bring to the boil. Lower the heat, cover the tagine and cook slowly for 1 hour, turning the chicken over several times so that all sides soak up the sauce. Add hot water if needed.
Add the olives, pickled lemon, coriander and parsley, stir, cover and cook for 15 more minutes. Check the seasoning. Once chicken is cooked, if the sauce is too runny, remove the chicken and keep it aside, covered with foil to keep warm. Raise the heat and boil the sauce for 5 minutes to reduce it.
Arrange the pickled lemon strips and olives on top. Cover the tagine dish and serve very hot.
Makes 6 main course servings
1 medium onion, chopped fine
4 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 tablespoons butter
one 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated fine
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground turmeric or 1 tablespoon fresh turmeric, grated
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, soaked for 30 minutes in 1 tablespoon water
6 tomatoes, peeled, stemmed, seeded, and chopped
1 small bunch cilantro, iarge stems removed
leaves from 1 small bunch mint
3 tablespoons golden raisins (sultanas)
3 tablespoons slivered almonds, toasted in a 350 degrees oven
until pale brown, about 12 minutes
1/2 preserved iemon, cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 2 tablespoons
after dicing), rinsed in a strainer
(optional; these are available in most gourmet grocery stores)
30 large or 18 jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined (deveining optional)
3/4 to 1 cup bottled harissa sauce, for serving
Preheat the tagine. Cook the onion, carrots, and garlic in the butter over medium heat until the onion is translucent and the carrots soft, about 15 minutes. Add the ginger, cumin, cinnamon, turmeric, cloves, and saffron with its soaking liquid to the carrot mixture. Gently stir the mixture—avoid breaking up the carrots—and cook over low to medium heat for about 2 minutes more. Add the tomatoes, cover the pot, and simmer on low heat, covered, for 10 minutes more. Chop the cilantro and mint and stir into the sauce with the raisins, almonds, preserved lemon, if using, and shrimp. Simmer for 2 to 3 minutes. Serve with couscous or rice and harissa sauce.