Tagine (also spelled 'tajine') is the name of a Moroccan dish, as well as the clay pot in which it is cooked.
Tagine meaning any meal in one, cooked as a stew and served in the traditional clay tagine. Moroccans will tell you there are a number of tagines. While the spices are often the same, the way that each cook uses them varies greatly. The spices used include some real staples of Moroccan cuisine such as garlic, ginger, saffron, cumin, paprika, turmeric, ras el hanout, black pepper, salt, and olive oil. These days a lot of tagines are actually made in metal pots, having substituted the original clay tagine, but the cooking process results in the same delicious tagine.
What is a tagine?
The tagine (pronounced tah-jeen) has worked magic for centuries in Morocco. The pot, with its conical lid, holds moist, golden chicken with the tang of olives, succulent lamb in sauces sweetened with dried fruit or thick fillets of fish brightened with herbs and spices. A tagine meant for cooking is a modest piece of pottery. The bottom is shallow, shaped like a pie dish and glazed on the top. The lid is conical and glazed only on the outside, with a round handle protruding from the top. When food slowly simmers in a tagine the steam that rises hits the unglazed inside of the lid. But instead of condensing back into the food, as it would in a metal pot, it is absorbed by the unglazed clay, resulting in a concentration and reduction of the cooking sauce.
The tagine is a very traditional way of cooking, dating back thousands of years.The first mention of such a pot can be traced back to the 9th century, when it was used throughout the Middle East and North Africa. It was popular in areas where water was in short supply - the cooking process means moisture is trapped and re-used, so only a small amount is needed.
Tagines are also the name of the dishes that are typically cooked in the pot, and the term refers to slow cooked savory stews, often made with meat or fish (the slow cooking process means that the meat becomes very tender), but you can also create a wide variety of delicious meals in the tagine, using many ingredients such as beans, couscous and a variety of vegetables.