Cooking with a Moroccan Tagine, Recipe included! March 27 2015, 0 Comments
The tagine is probably one of the most iconic and most worldly recognised representations of Moroccan life, food and culture. It is both the name for Morocco’s traditional dish comprising of various meats or vegetables and delicious combinations of spices as well as the cooking vessel of which it is cooked in.
Most popular in Morocco and Northern Africa, the tagine is formed from clay or ceramic and is believed to have been brought into the country at the time of Roman occupation as the Romans were renowned for their pottery. The tagine consists of a wide, shallow, circular base and a form fitting lid designed in a conical or domed shape. It is believed to have been designed in that shape originally due to limited water supply and availability- the tagine is conically shaped to allow the steam to rise up, condense and fall back on to the food, therefore basting it constantly so that very little liquid is required.
It is a transportable oven that can be taken anywhere- resting upon a coal burner it allowed the Berber tribes’ people to travel through the desert for days at a time and still be able to produce wonderful, satisfying, flavoursome and economical meals wherever they lay their heads. Utilizing the cheaper cuts of meat is the optimal way to use a tagine as well, as it is designed to be used on a very low flame for longer cooking times. Therefore, the cheapest, toughest cuts of meat will become the most succulent, tender, delicious feast you can imagine.
There are many different types of tagines to choose from- the cooking tagine is plain terracotta in design and is specially made in Tangier to be lead free for cooking purposes. They can be used on a gas stove top, on a coal burner or in an oven and a diffuser is recommended when using the tagine on a stove top to evenly distribute the heat. Ideally, the tagine should be soaked overnight before use so that the terracotta can absorb water and protect it from cracking. Seasoning the tagine by rubbing the inside with olive oil and leaving in a low oven for an hour before use will create a non stick surface and then you’re ready to go! The decorative, hand painted tagines can be used to serve your delicious tagines in but the paint used makes them unsuitable to cook in. Are you not the budding chef? Simply add a tagine to your home as a stunning decorative piece to add interest to your home décor. Whichever tagine you choose to use, you are guaranteed to create a buzz of excitement at your next dinner party and delight your family and friends with a wonderful, homely meal unlike any other.
So why not have a go at cooking your own tagine. Experiment with different spices, vegetables and various cuts of meat as well as the typically Moroccan flavours such as olives, dried apricots and preserved lemons. A piping hot bowl of couscous on the side and you’ll have created a meal fit for a king! Here’s a great tagine recipe for inspiration:
CHERMOULA FISH TAGINE
1kg Firm, white fish fillets
1tbsp Ghee or olive oil
1 Brown onion, finely chopped
3 Celery stalks, finely chopped
2 Peeled carrots, finely chopped
400g Tin chopped tomatoes
1/2c Fish stock
Fresh mint leaves to serve
Lemon wedges to serve
1/4c Chopped, fresh coriander
1/4c Chopped, fresh parsley
1 Large, fresh chilli, seeded, finely chopped
2 Crushed garlic cloves
1 Large pinch saffron threads
1tbsp Cumin seeds
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt & pepper to taste
-Combine chermoula ingredients in a large bowl. Set aside.
-Cut the fish fillets into strips, approximately 4cm wide x 6cm long. Add the chermoula, toss until combined and leave in the refrigerator for 2 hours to marinate.
-Heat all or ghee in the base of your tagine on a medium-low heat. Add onion, celery and carrot. Cook, stirring for a few minutes until the onion is soft and translucent.
-Add the chopped tomatoes and fish stock. Bring to a slow boil and reduce the heat to a low temperature.
-Add the fish to the onion mixture, cover and cook for 10 minutes or until the fish flakes when tested with a fork.
-Scatter the top with mint leaves and serve with lemon wedges.