Tajine

Tajine

Overview

A tajine, or tagine is a dish from North Africa, that is named after the special earthenware pot in which it is cooked. A similar dish, known as tavvas, is found in the cuisine of Cyprus
Cuisine of Cyprus
Cypriot cuisine is the cuisine of Cyprus and can be described as a blend of Greek cuisines. Greek Cypriot cuisine is another regional Greek cuisine along with Cretan, Ionian, or Attic....

. The traditional tajine pot is formed entirely of a heavy clay, which is sometimes painted or glazed
Ceramic glaze
Glaze is a layer or coating of a vitreous substance which has been fired to fuse to a ceramic object to color, decorate, strengthen or waterproof it.-Use:...

. It consists of two parts: a base unit that is flat and circular with low sides, and a large cone or dome-shaped cover that sits on the base during cooking.
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A tajine, or tagine is a dish from North Africa, that is named after the special earthenware pot in which it is cooked. A similar dish, known as tavvas, is found in the cuisine of Cyprus
Cuisine of Cyprus
Cypriot cuisine is the cuisine of Cyprus and can be described as a blend of Greek cuisines. Greek Cypriot cuisine is another regional Greek cuisine along with Cretan, Ionian, or Attic....

. The traditional tajine pot is formed entirely of a heavy clay, which is sometimes painted or glazed
Ceramic glaze
Glaze is a layer or coating of a vitreous substance which has been fired to fuse to a ceramic object to color, decorate, strengthen or waterproof it.-Use:...

. It consists of two parts: a base unit that is flat and circular with low sides, and a large cone or dome-shaped cover that sits on the base during cooking. The cover is so designed to promote the return of all condensation to the bottom. With the cover removed, the base can be taken to the table for serving.

More recently, European manufacturers have created tajines with heavy cast-iron bottoms that can be heated on a cooking stove to a high temperature . This permits the browning of meat and vegetables before cooking.

Moroccan tajine



Tajines in Moroccan cuisine are slow-cooked stews braised
Braising
Braising , is a combination cooking method using both moist and dry heat; typically the food is first seared at a high temperature and then finished in a covered pot with a variable amount of liquid, resulting in a particular flavour...

 at low temperatures, resulting in tender meat with aromatic vegetables and sauce. They are traditionally cooked in the tajine pot, the conical cover of which has a knob-like handle at its top to facilitate removal. While simmering
Simmering
Simmering is a food preparation technique in which foods are cooked in hot liquids kept at or just below the boiling point of water , but higher than poaching temperature...

, the cover can be lifted off without the aid of a mitten, enabling the cook to inspect the main ingredients, add vegetables, mix the contents, or add additional braising
Braising
Braising , is a combination cooking method using both moist and dry heat; typically the food is first seared at a high temperature and then finished in a covered pot with a variable amount of liquid, resulting in a particular flavour...

 liquid.

Most tajines involve slow simmering of less-expensive meats. For example, the ideal cuts of lamb are the neck, shoulder or shank cooked until it is falling off the bone. Very few Moroccan tajines require initial browning; if there is to be browning it is invariably done after the lamb has been simmered and the flesh has become butter-tender and very moist. In order to accomplish this, the cooking liquid must contain some fat, which may be skimmed off later.

Moroccan tajines often combine lamb or chicken with a medley of ingredients or seasonings: olive
Olive
The olive , Olea europaea), is a species of a small tree in the family Oleaceae, native to the coastal areas of the eastern Mediterranean Basin as well as northern Iran at the south end of the Caspian Sea.Its fruit, also called the olive, is of major agricultural importance in the...

s, quince
Quince
The quince , or Cydonia oblonga, is the sole member of the genus Cydonia and native to warm-temperate southwest Asia in the Caucasus region...

s, apples, pears, apricots, raisins, prunes, dates, nuts, with fresh
Lemon
The lemon is both a small evergreen tree native to Asia, and the tree's ellipsoidal yellow fruit. The fruit is used for culinary and non-culinary purposes throughout the world – primarily for its juice, though the pulp and rind are also used, mainly in cooking and baking...

 or preserved lemon
Preserved lemon
Preserved lemon or lemon pickle is a condiment that is common in Indian Cuisine , especially South Indian cuisine and also in North African cuisine, especially Moroccan cuisine. It is also known as "country lemon" and leems. Diced, quartered, halved, or whole lemons are pickled in a brine of...

s, with or without honey, with or without a complexity of spices. Traditional spices that are used to flavour tajines include ground cinnamon
Cinnamon
Cinnamon is a spice obtained from the inner bark of several trees from the genus Cinnamomum that is used in both sweet and savoury foods...

, saffron
Saffron
Saffron is a spice derived from the flower of Crocus sativus, commonly known as the saffron crocus. Crocus is a genus in the family Iridaceae. Each saffron crocus grows to and bears up to four flowers, each with three vivid crimson stigmas, which are each the distal end of a carpel...

, ginger
Ginger
Ginger is the rhizome of the plant Zingiber officinale, consumed as a delicacy, medicine, or spice. It lends its name to its genus and family . Other notable members of this plant family are turmeric, cardamom, and galangal....

, turmeric
Turmeric
Turmeric is a rhizomatous herbaceous perennial plant of the ginger family, Zingiberaceae. It is native to tropical South Asia and needs temperatures between 20 °C and 30 °C and a considerable amount of annual rainfall to thrive...

, cumin
Cumin
Cumin is a flowering plant in the family Apiaceae, native from the east Mediterranean to India. Its seeds are used in the cuisines of many different cultures, in both whole and ground form.-Etymology:...

, paprika
Paprika
Paprika is a spice made from the grinding of dried fruits of Capsicum annuum . In many European languages, the word paprika refers to bell peppers themselves. The seasoning is used in many cuisines to add color and flavor to dishes. Paprika can range from mild to hot...

, pepper
Black pepper
Black pepper is a flowering vine in the family Piperaceae, cultivated for its fruit, which is usually dried and used as a spice and seasoning. The fruit, known as a peppercorn when dried, is approximately in diameter, dark red when fully mature, and, like all drupes, contains a single seed...

, as well as the famous spice blend ras el hanout
Ras el hanout
Ras el hanout or Rass el hanout is a popular Moroccan blend of spices that is used across North Africa. The name means "top of the shop" in Arabic and refers to a mixture of the best spices a seller has to offer...

. Some famous tajine dishes are mqualli or mshermel (both are pairings of chicken
Chicken (food)
Chicken is the most common type of poultry in the world, and is prepared as food in a wide variety of ways, varying by region and culture.- History :...

, olives and citrus fruits, though preparation methods differ), kefta (meatballs in an egg
Egg (food)
Eggs are laid by females of many different species, including birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish, and have probably been eaten by mankind for millennia. Bird and reptile eggs consist of a protective eggshell, albumen , and vitellus , contained within various thin membranes...

 and tomato
Tomato
The word "tomato" may refer to the plant or the edible, typically red, fruit which it bears. Originating in South America, the tomato was spread around the world following the Spanish colonization of the Americas, and its many varieties are now widely grown, often in greenhouses in cooler...

 sauce), and mrouzia
Mrouzia
Mrouzia is one of the most important dishes of the Moroccan cuisine. It is a sweeten-salted tajine with sweetened flavours of honey, cinnamon and almonds balanced by spices of the Ras el hanout blend of spices....

(lamb, raisin
Raisin
Raisins are dried grapes. They are produced in many regions of the world. Raisins may be eaten raw or used in cooking, baking and brewing...

s and almond
Almond
The almond , is a species of tree native to the Middle East and South Asia. Almond is also the name of the edible and widely cultivated seed of this tree...

s).

Other ingredients for a tajine may include any product that braises well: fish
Fish (food)
Fish is a food consumed by many species, including humans. The word "fish" refers to both the animal and to the food prepared from it. Fish has been an important source of protein for humans throughout recorded history.-Terminology:...

, quail
Quail
Quail is a collective name for several genera of mid-sized birds generally considered in the order Galliformes. Old World quail are found in the family Phasianidae, while New World quail are found in the family Odontophoridae...

, pigeon, beef
Beef
Beef is the culinary name for meat from bovines, especially domestic cattle. Beef can be harvested from cows, bulls, heifers or steers. It is one of the principal meats used in the cuisine of the Middle East , Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Europe and the United States, and is also important in...

, root vegetable
Vegetable
The noun vegetable usually means an edible plant or part of a plant other than a sweet fruit or seed. This typically means the leaf, stem, or root of a plant....

s, legumes, even amber
Amber
Amber is fossilized tree resin , which has been appreciated for its color and natural beauty since Neolithic times. Amber is used as an ingredient in perfumes, as a healing agent in folk medicine, and as jewelry. There are five classes of amber, defined on the basis of their chemical constituents...

 and agarwood
Agarwood
Agarwood or oodh is a dark resinous heartwood that forms in Aquilaria and Gyrinops trees when they become infected with a type of mold...

. Modern recipes in the West include pot roasts, ossobuco, lamb shanks
Shank (meat)
A meat shank or shin is the portion of meat around the tibia of the animal, the leg bone beneath the knee.Lamb shanks are often braised whole; veal shanks are typically cross-cut.Some dishes made using shank include:...

 and turkey legs. Seasonings can be traditional Moroccan spices, French, Italian or suited to the dish.

Tunisian tajine



What Tunisians refer to as a "tajine" is very different from the more well-known Moroccan dish. Tunisian tajine is more like an Italian frittata
Frittata
Frittata is an egg-based dish similar to an omelette or quiche, enriched with additional ingredients such as meats, cheeses, vegetables or pasta...

. First, a simple ragout
Ragout
-Etymology:The term comes from the French ragoûter, to revive the taste. The etymologically related Italian ragù is a sauce such as Bolognese used typically to dress pasta.-Preparation:...

 is prepared, of meat cut into very small pieces, cooked with onions and various spices, such as a blend of dried rose
Rose
A rose is a woody perennial of the genus Rosa, within the family Rosaceae. There are over 100 species. They form a group of erect shrubs, and climbing or trailing plants, with stems that are often armed with sharp prickles. Flowers are large and showy, in colours ranging from white through yellows...

buds
Bud
In botany, a bud is an undeveloped or embryonic shoot and normally occurs in the axil of a leaf or at the tip of the stem. Once formed, a bud may remain for some time in a dormant condition, or it may form a shoot immediately. Buds may be specialized to develop flowers or short shoots, or may have...

 and ground cinnamon known as baharat
Baharat
Bahārāt is a spice mixture or blend used in Arab cuisine, especially in the Mashriq area, as well as in Turkish and Iranian cuisine. Bahārāt is the Arabic word for 'spices'...

, or a robust combination of ground coriander and caraway seeds; this is called tabil. Then something starchy is added to thicken the juices - common thickeners include cannellini beans, chickpea
Chickpea
The chickpea is a legume of the family Fabaceae, subfamily Faboideae...

s, breadcrumb
Breadcrumb
Breadcrumbs or bread crumbs are small particles of dry bread, which are used for breading or crumbing foods, topping casseroles, stuffing poultry, thickening stews, and adding inexpensive bulk to meatloaves and similar foods. They are documented in cookbooks as early as 1716...

s or cubed potatoes. When the meat is tender, it is combined with whatever ingredient has been chosen to be the dominant flavoring. Examples include but are not limited to fresh parsley
Parsley
Parsley is a species of Petroselinum in the family Apiaceae, native to the central Mediterranean region , naturalized elsewhere in Europe, and widely cultivated as an herb, a spice and a vegetable.- Description :Garden parsley is a bright green hairless biennial herbaceous plant in temperate...

, dried mint, saffron
Saffron
Saffron is a spice derived from the flower of Crocus sativus, commonly known as the saffron crocus. Crocus is a genus in the family Iridaceae. Each saffron crocus grows to and bears up to four flowers, each with three vivid crimson stigmas, which are each the distal end of a carpel...

, sun-dried tomatoes, cooked vegetables, or even stewed calves brains. Next, the stew is enriched with cheese and eggs. Finally, this egg and stew is baked in a deep pie dish, either on the stove or in the oven until both top and bottom are crisply cooked and the eggs are just set. When the tajine is ready, it is turned out onto a plate and sliced into squares, accompanied by wedges of lemon. Tunisian tajines can be made with seafood, or as a completely vegetarian dish.

In rural parts of Tunisia, home cooks place a shallow earthenware dish over glowing olive wood, fill it, cover it with a flat earthen pan, and then pile hot coals on top. The resulting tajine is crusty on top and bottom, moist within, and is infused with a subtle smoky fragrance.