Tips for Cooking in a Moroccan Tagine

Morocco is famous for delicious, spicy, slow-cooked meat and fish dishes. Just thinking about this incredible food makes my mouth water.

Moroccan cooking frequently takes advantage of a one-pot solution: the tagine.

The word tagine is used to describe both the food and the dish the meal is prepared in. This dish is a beautiful and unique item with a wide, shallow base and cone-shaped top. The two pieces seal together tightly to retain heat, moisture, and flavor.

Traditional tagines are made of unglazed clay or earthenware that adds a rustic and earthy flavor to your food. Today, tagines can be made from a variety of materials such as metal, cast iron, or flameproof glazed ceramic.

Below, you’ll find our top tips for cooking in a Moroccan tagine, so you can create incredible flavors at home.

1. Season

When you purchase a tagine, the first thing you must do is season it. This doesn’t mean salt and pepper; it refers to the process of sealing the pot and strengthening it against heat.

To season your tagine, soak the lid and base for two hours before thoroughly drying and brushing with olive oil. Once brushed, place the tagine in the oven and bake at 300’F for two hours before turning the oven off and allowing the pot to cool inside. Once finished, wash the tagine, then brush it again with olive oil.

2. Base

Once your tagine has been seasoned, the next thing to do is arrange your base layer to protect your meats and prevent sticking. This involves creating a bed from chopped onions and can also include celery, carrots, or small bamboo sticks in addition to garlic.

3. Oil

Oil is the foundation of the rich sauces that tagines are famous for and is added on top of your base layer.

In Moroccan cooking, you’ll often find chefs use a combination of olive oil and vegetable oil in their dishes. This can be for two reasons: firstly, small quantities of extra virgin olive oil can produce intense flavors, and secondly, vegetable oil is considerably cheaper!

4. Meat, Fish, Veggies

After arranging your base layer and adding oil, place your meat in the center of the tagine. This can be red meat, poultry, fish, or vegetarian options.

Some recipes will call for the meat to be browned first. If you wish to do this, use a separate pan as tagines should not be used at high temperatures.

Your vegetables should then be placed around the perimeter of the meat and stacked attractively.

5. Spices

The next step in a traditional Moroccan tagine is to season (we really do mean seasoning this time!) the dish. You can pick up pre-mixed Moroccan spices from most stores or make your own.

Moroccan spice blends include salt and pepper, paprika, cumin, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and cayenne pepper. Sweet Pea and Saffron also recommend adding a little sugar.

Sprinkle your spice mixture over the meat and vegetables, concentrating on the onions for a full flavor.

6. Garnish

Add more colors and flavor with bell peppers, lemons, olives, chili peppers, jalapenos, and/or herbs before creating your sauce.

7. Liquid

Before you place your tagine on the heat, add some water, stock, or broth. It’s vital to add liquids slowly so that you don’t wash away the spices, and the liquid should go in cold to avoid thermal shock.

8. Cook

Tagines involve slow cooking, so you’ll need to cook at a medium to low heat and allow the dish to simmer gently. Be careful not to place your tagine directly on the heat because this can cause cracking. 

Check the tagine after approximately two hours of simmering. If you need to, add another ¼ cup of water for the last hour.

10. Serve

Because tagines are so beautiful, many people choose to use them as a serving dish as well as a cooking pot. Some modern tagines-pot will incorporate an easy-grip rim to aid in carrying the pot from the stove to the table.

11. Cleaning and Storage

Now you know how to cook in a Moroccan tagine, we’ll leave you with just a few more quick tips to help you get the most out of this dish:

Always hand wash your tagine after every service, and never place it in the dishwasher

Check your tagine is completely dry before putting it away

Leave the lid slightly ajar to allow air circulation and prevent too much flavor build-up

Following these tips will ensure your tagine lasts as long as possible, so you can create stunning dishes for years to come.

*This is a contributed post*

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