Tagine

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.

Shrimp Tagine

Makes 6 main course servings

Ingredients:

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

Directions

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.

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11 responses to “Tagine

  1. I want to buy the same brand tagine but chef Zadi on his website wrote that the cover stays hot on this brand tagine when cooking on the stove and it should not.
    What is your own experience?
    Do you cook on the stove?
    Do you use diffuser?
    Do you like how it cooks?
    Thank you for the recipes, I will try them when I decide which brand tagine to buy.

    • Thanks for the questions. I cook on a gas stove. I don’t know exactly what you mean by a diffuser, but I’m guessing it’s a means of distributing the heat…I use my 12 cast iron skillet for that purpose (I don’t like single-taskers.) The tangine fits perfectly in the skillet. I rub a little oil on the skillet to prevent any damage to the seasoning. I love the way it cooks, and this is one reason I chose a ceramic tagine. Also, the more expensive models I looked at were made of metal; I can just use my normal cookware if I’m going to use a metal tagine. The cover does get hot, and I have to use a hot pad. My biggest complaint with this brand is that there is not a good knob on the top with which to grab and lift the cover.

  2. Thank you very much for your reply.
    I should think about this problem with the cover.
    I am happy it works for you.
    I will write later when I get the tagine and share my thoughts with you.
    Best regards.

  3. I tried to send you an e-mail, but it was no success.
    I just wanted to share one hint with you I read recently. One women wrote instead of diffuser she put upside down pan. In this case distance from the fire is bigger and you should not put an oil in your pan. But this is not my experience, just interesting to know this.

    • Interesting… I’ll give this a try. I’m not sure direct flame is better for the seasoning than the tagine sitting directly in the pan, but it’s an easy experiment and I can always re-season the skillet.

  4. I do not suggest to season the pan if you put it upsidedown on the flame. In this case it could be dangerous because oil can catch the fire. Please, don’t do this.
    Another hint I read just an hour ago-to put wok stand underneath.

    • Seasoning is the carbon coating that occurs on cast iron that makes it non-stick. You are correct…putting oil in a pan and then turning it upside down on an open flame would be very exciting!

  5. I just bought the same type of tagine and cured it already. Before I start I just want to be sure about temperature control because I don’t want to ruin my new toy.
    Do you start on low or on medium?
    When do you go to higher level?
    How long does it take to simmer?
    How long does it take to prepare the meal-approximately?
    I would very appreciate your help.

    • Congratulations on your new cookware!

      This is how I do it…

      I put my tagine in a bucket of water the night before but sometimes that morning. I do this to be on the safe side, plus I don’t want to forget about doing this the day I am cooking…I can go about my day with no worries. When I’m ready to cook, I’ll take it out and wash it before use. So far I’ve not had a shattered tagine. My girl from Yemen (they also use tagines) said it does happen occasionally despite proper usage.

      I generally start on medium to cook the onions, etc. then turn it to low when I add the meat and place the lid on top. Recipes will call for the vegetable to be sauteed separately, but it’s one of my goals to get the job done entirely in the tagine. The set-up requires some pre-heating as the heat must disperse through the iron-stone pan and the tagine. Once the lid is in place, the heat has to be turned down very low as the tagine is very effective at circulating heat. You can peek under the lid periodically to see if you have a proper simmer going. You should be prepared to add more liquid if needed.

      Cooking time depends on what you are cooking. A shrimp tagine takes less than an hour. Chicken, lamb, and goat take two or more hours. The tougher the meat, the longer it will need to cook in the tagine. So total cooking time depends on the meat, the number of vegetables that need to be prepared, and your speed with a knife.

      Good Luck! Please let me know how it turns out.

  6. Thanks a lot for all your advices.
    It turned out very delicious.
    I just did it today. It was beef with olives, potatoes and orange bell pepper. I do know how and love to cook but the sauce in the tagine is more consistent and delicious then in the metal cookware and color I received like I browned meet before but I did not.
    But one problem I have to work with is the temperature setting. It took me a long time to make the tagine hot because I used an old metal, not cast iron, upside down pan, and the distance from the fire was bigger. Next time I will use higher temperature to start with.
    And one trick I used may be it will be useful for you too-to reduce the amount of evaporation I made a little piece of dough with flour and water and closed the hole in the cover because the cover is not so tight and it is enough evaporation from under the cover. I understand that I did it right because I pored some red vine and some water just one time and at the end I had a a good consistency of the sauce.
    Thank you very much one more time.
    I can’t send you an e-mail because it does not work but if I have some ideas I will share them with you.
    Best regards.

    • On the email, replace “at” with “@” and make it one address without spaces. It’s written the way it is to combat spam bots.

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