The word tagine refers both to a conical earthenware pot and the food prepared in it. A tagine may seem exotic, but it is as down to earth as it gets, and so simple to use.
Here are 5 facts about tagine that will end the mystery of both the pot and the food:
1. How a Tagine Pot Works
The base of the tagine pot is wide and shallow, with a cover that has a conical shape. The cover is tapered at the top with a knob that serves as a handle, and the cover creates a seal with the base.
When combined, the base and cover make a kind of clay oven.
2. The Design was Perfected by North African Nomads
The design of the tagine was perfect for North African nomads because it could be used like a portable oven that could be used to prepare food while moving around. It could also be put right into an open fire, or on a bed of coals to cook.
It was ideal for desert peoples. Water was scarce, but the conical lid saved water by catching the steam from the food and taking that condensation and having it fall back onto the food. This way, the food was naturally and continuously basted and kept moist.
The shallow base could be used to both cook and serve the food, saving space.
3. Tagines were Traditionally Made of Earthenware
Tagines were traditionally made of unglazed earthenware. Today, they are made of different types of materials, some that are glazed and elegantly decorated in a variety of colors and designs.
Tagines of unglazed earthenware are still used, and are known to impart a “taste of the earth” into the food.
4. Different Tagines can have Different Functions
If you are thinking of purchasing a tagine, you have to keep in mind whether you want to use it for cooking or serving food.
Some of the tagines that are meant for serving have beautiful decorations, but they can’t always be exposed to heat.
5. How to Use a Tagine
Tagine cooking is a method of cooking rather than a specific dish.
If you are going to use a clay or ceramic tagine, be sure to season it before the first use, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
To use a tagine in an oven, place the cold tagine in a cold oven on a rack, then set the temperature to no more than 325 to 350 F.
Most tagine recipes layer ingredients. There will be aromatics, meat and vegetables in addition to spices, oil and water.
Common spices that are used are saffron, ginger, turmeric, coriander, paprika and cinnamon.
As the ingredients cook, it starts to develop a stew-like consistency, with a flavorful sauce, which can be scooped up with Moroccan bread.
It is tradition to eat tagine with your hands. Be sure to eat with your right hand only, using your thumb and the first two fingers only. Using more than those two fingers is a sign of gluttony!