A Moroccan Tagine - Perfect for Slow Cooking
When I bought the Le Creuset tagine pictured below, it was because I'd heard it is a great way to cook food slowly on the top of a stove or in the oven on a low heat.
No need to worry about it boiling dry, or having to put in a lot stock before you start. The design of a tagine means that it will never boil dry as long as it has a small amount of liquid in when you start.
I'm a great fan of Le Creuset cooking pots so I bought the company's tagine. It has a cast iron base and stoneware lid which comes in a variety of bright colours - I bought the red but they come in green, blue, yellow and white too.
Why Does It Have the Chimney?
The chimney shape of the tagine lid means steam condenses on the sides and runs back into the bottom. You lose no moisture or flavour into the air.
There's one more thing I especially like about the tagine - its shape. I think it is so elegant, sculptural and decorative.
Perfect for Many Types of Dishes Including American and European
Of course a tagine is brilliant for trying Moroccan or other Middle Eastern recipes but it's just as good for American or European traditionally slow cooked food. It's as good for vegetarian dishes as it is for meat. The other advantage is that it is easy to use. Even better, it won't boil dry and burn your food.
Cooks Pork Chops Perfectly
I'm not the world's greatest cook when it comes to pork chops. Give me a lamb chop and I can cook it to perfection but not a pork chop. In a tagine it's not a problem. I just put my chops on the bottom with appropriate seasoning and flavours - I particularly like to use sage and caramelised onions with them and half a cup of stock. I often put the chops on a bed of vegetables, particularly potatoes, carrots and parsnips. Then I let them cook slowly on a low heat until the meat and vegetables are tender.
At the end of the cooking time, the chops will melt in your mouth. They will be tender and full of flavour because, apart from the half cup of stock, they cook in their own juices.
I've cooked pork chops in my tagine both on the top of the cooker and in the oven. Both methods worked equally well. That means I can choose whichever way is more convenient depending on whether I'm using the burners on the top for cooking other things or not.
The Tagine Used in Morocco
A Tagine Doesn't Have to be Expensive
The tagine I show above is quite expensive to buy. That's because the base is cast iron and it's got a Le Creuset label on it. Normally I don't buy expensive kitchenware but I got it in a sale and couldn't resist it.
There are much less expensive tagines available like the ceramic one from Amazon shown here.
You have to follow the instructions about seasoning it before using it for the first time but even ones that cost much more still need to be seasoned before use, just like a frying pan, for example.
You also have to remember it is breakable but so is is cast iron and the ceramic lid of the more expensive model.
How to Cook a Lamb Tagine Dish
Colourful, Patterned Tagines
The Traditional Moroccan Tagine
Although now most associated with Morocco, the tagine originally came from the nomadic Berbers of North Africa. The Berbers are still found in countries of North Africa like Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria. They are also found in some European countries.
The tagine is traditionally made of pottery clay and was used on charcoal fires although it wasn't placed directly on top of hot charcoal.
The traditional ones are very much the same: a shallow, low-sided dish with a curved cone shape lid tapering to a chimney to allow steam to condense and return moisture to the food being cooked.
They are still freely available in Morocco. Some are plain earthenware while others are coloured and glazed and many come with attractive colourful patterns on the dish and/or lid. If I ever visit Morocco, I will definitely come back with a genuine Moroccan tagine.
Tagines in a Shop in Morocco
Have you used a tagine?
© 2013 Carol Fisher