Oh la la, the shopping in Morocco is drool worthy. I have a long list of merchandise I wish I bought while I was there, but heavy, fragile clay crockery does not bode well in a backpack. My friend Claudette was an avid traveler and a self-proclaimed flashpacker, before owning a farm and raising a family. She has never been dissuaded by lugging around an enormous purchase. Her home is now filled with beautiful art and mementos of her adventures. Lucky for me, she has two tagines from Morocco that I got to play with.
These funny shaped pyramid pots are made from ceramic or earthenware common in Northern Africa and strongly associated with Moroccan cuisine. The conical shaped Tagine lid is intentionally shaped to allow moisture to recirculate within the pot with offering rich, flavorful, and moist dishes. They are wonderful for vessels to cook meat, fish, and vegetables then elegantly served straight out of the crockery.
Tagines are cooked low and slow and leaving the food undisturbed, no stirring, nada so you want to layer your ingredients and spices as you would if you were cooking a stew on the stove and dressed to impress all before the ingredients touch the heat.
These beautiful Moroccan tagines will commonly pair savory and sweet flavors and loads of aromatics. Think chicken, beef, or lamb with dried fruits like dates, apricots, raisins, or prunes and preserved food such as lemons and olives. Ras El Hanout is the masala of the Arabic world. It translates to “head of the shop” and is a blend of up to 30 different spices offering strong robust flavors on the sweet side without the spicy heat. Tagines make fabulous vegan dishes stacked with vegetables and chickpeas. This is also a delightful way to clean out the fridge and use what is already on hand (hence the celery and turnips).
Now, let’s talk Couscous for a minute. That’s right, Couscous- the food so nice they named it twice. Tourist restaurants in Morocco will often plate couscous in a tagine topped with some sort of stewed veg and meat. If you order a tagine, don’t expect to be served couscous. If you order couscous it is common for it to be served in a tagine.
EQUIPMENT: A Tagine*
Fair trade hand made hand painted Tagine pot for cooking $60 at Amazon.
*Alternatively, a Dutch oven or a heavy cast iron pot like a potjie (the idea is a airtight lid that will keep moisture in.
I seriously overestimated the size of the tagines. Each tagine of this size feeds two people. About half my prep was split between two tagines.
Tagine 1: Root vegetable and chickpea
Sliced onion, sweet potato, turnip, chickpea, carrot, celery, baby marrow, parsley, olives
Tagine 2: Ratatouille style with chickpea
Sliced onion, Aubergine, paddy pan squash, baby marrow (zucchini), tomato, red pepper, parsley, olives
My house blend: Cumin, coriander, cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, paprika, clove, saffron, cayenne, allspice, cardamom, & white pepper.
Prep the ingredients: slice onion and cut the vegetable in hearty sizes
Blend seasoning together and add it to a ½ cup of hot water to make a broth
Layer: Onions, olive oil, garlic, protein mounded in the middle, firm veg, softer veg, and top with garnish, make it pretty remember this is a statement dish, then pour the broth around the edge of the base, close the lid, no peeking.
Traditionally tagines are cooked low and slow over an open flame or coals. If it is on a stove top use a heat diffuser, cook on medium-low heat bring to a simmer for roughly two hours give or take. Check to see if there is enough cooking liquid. If all the liquid is absorbed, add another ¼ cup and continue to cook until veg is soft and meat is cooked. Vegan, fish, and chicken tagines will cook quicker faster than beef or lamb. Alternatively, you can cook the tagine in the oven. Place the cold tagine in the cold oven and let them come to temperature together. 300? for approximately 2 hours.
Proudly present it your spectacular tagine by dramatically lifting the cone. Serve with flat bread to soak up all the nice saucy bits.
While I am writing this in South Africa, my collection of cookbooks are wrapped up safely in a box in the corner of my sister’s garage. Kitty Morse’s Cooking at the Kasbah: Recipes from My Moroccan Kitchen, has fabulous authentic recipes that I successfully made for years before my trip to Morocco and is one of my favorite cookbooks.