A tajine or tagine is a Berber “stew”, named after the (traditionally) earthenware pot in which it is cooked.
This style of cooking is common in North Africa cuisines of Tunisia, Morroco and Algeria and dates back to the ninth century with the earliest written records about cooking in a tajine appearing in One Thousand and One Nights. (Wikipedia)
The purpose of the cone-shaped top of a tagine is to return moisture to the base. Tagines are meant to be cooked low and slow, which makes them more nutritious: less nutrients are destroyed at lower temperature and the moisture provided during cooking means not much oil is needed.
Traditional clay tagine, like all clay cooking pots, impart a unique earthy flavor. (Speaking of clay pots, that’s a whole other rabbit hole to go down. Check out this article about them in Food & Wine.)
Traditionally, a tagine is cooked slowly for hours over a charcoal fire. This style of cooking makes a ton of sense in areas where water supplies are limited and it helps tenderize tougher cuts of meat.
Because we don’t have a tagine, a charcoal fire, or the time (!), we made our tagine in our Staub cocette which has self-basting drip function on the lid. If you don’t have a tagine or a pot with a self-basting lid, not to worry—you can make your tagine in any heavy pot with a tight fitting lid. Remember, the secret to success is LOW & SLOW.
There is no one tagine dish, as it’s more about the style of cooking than the ingredients. We’re diving into the different types and have selected a Moroccan cookbook for our April bookclub, so watch for more recipes to come!
This month, we came up with a recipe for a warming vegan tagine. We could also see this recipe working really well with some ground lamb (cook it up with a little garlic and salt and add it when you add the eggplant). As always, we encourage you to experiment and make it your own!
This month, we came up with a recipe for a warming vegan tagine. Because we don’t have a tagine, a charcoal fire, or the time (!), we made our tagine in our Staub cocette which has a self-basting drip function on the lid.
3 large yellow or white onions (about 2 lbs), coarsely chopped
4 medium shallots, coarsely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped (about 1 TBSP)
2 large eggplants (about 1.5 lbs), chopped into 1.5" chunks
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled & chopped into 1.5" chunks
1/2 bunch cilantro, stems removed & roughly chopped (optional)
2 pinches saffron threads
1 pinch crushed red pepper
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 C raisins (optional)
3 TBSP olive oil
4 cups cooked couscous OR rice OR crusty bread (optional)
Heat olive oil in large dutch oven over medium-high heat.
Add onions, garlic, and the shallots, stir to combine with oil.
Cook until the onions and shallots are soft and translucent, stirring occasionally, 15-20 minutes.
Add spices, sweet potatoes, and raisins and 2 cups of water and cover pot.
Simmer gently over low heat for 15 minutes. Add eggplant.
Top with chopped cilantro and serve warm with couscous, rice or crusty bread.
*(If you are cooking for two, you can cut the recipe by using half the eggplant, sweet potato, saffron and water — but use the same amount of the rest of the spices.)
**Our stove on low is like other people’s stoves on medium-low. You want the onions and shallots to cook, but you don’t want them to burn or stick to the pan, so you may have to fiddle with your burner a little but to get it right.