Tagine, is a Moroccan stew named after the unique pot in which it is cooked. Traditional tagines were made of unglazed pottery and comprised of a shallow base bowl with raised edges and a cone shaped lid that tappers at the top (see image below) and fits tightly inside the bowl. The shape of the lid is designed to keep the condensation of steam as the food cooks and return it to the food below, continuing to baste it rather than allowing it to escape. It is intended for a long slow cooking over moderate heat and the foods cooked in a tagine remain moist and full of flavour.
Tagine has a long history dating back more than ten centuries. it was immortalized in the 1001 Arabian Nights in the 9th century. Imagine tagines cooked over slow charcoal fire in Moroccan villages then eaten as a communal dish where people scoop up their food with a piece of bread that soaks up the aromatic stew.
Traditional tagines are made with meat and vegetables stewed in very little broth sometimes with the addition of local fruits such as dates or prunes for a little sweetness. Tagines are flavoured with spices including cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, saffron, paprika and various chilis. You can also use prepared tagine spice (William Sonoma sells one) or ras el hanut, a special middle eastern spice blend of more than a dozen spices, or even harissa.
I have the Emile Henri tagine, made in France from Burgundy clay and glazed to a shiny finish. This is a sturdy tagine that can be used in the oven or on a stove top. Le Creuset makes an enamelled caste iron tagine pot that is also high quality. If you don’t have a tagine you can cook this in a heavy pot, perhaps enamelled cast iron, covered with tight lid. Keep peeking to a minimum to keep the steam in.
8 cups vegetables, choose from the following:
1/2 cup olives
1 lemon, quartered, seeds removed
2 tablespoons tagine spice or 2 teaspoon each cumin and turmeric and 1 teaspoon chili seasoning
2 Tablespoons harissa
Salt and pepper
1 small can tomatoes or 1 cup good quality tomato sauce
1 cup stock
1 cup yogurt
additional harissa for serving.
Cut the vegetables into chunks of approximately equal size.
Place vegetables and olives in the tagine pot and drizzle with the olive oil.
Add the tagine spice or alternative spices and mix them to coat the vegetables.
Add the harissa, salt and pepper.
Add the tomatoes and stock.
Cover the tagine, place in the oven and heat to 375ºF.
Cook, covered with the lid for about an hour, stirring once through the cooking but no more.
Remove lid and check the tagine. If the vegetables are done and there is excess liquid, cook without the lids for 10 minutes or so.
Serve warm with yogurt and harissa.