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What Is Tajine?

Cooks without a tagine can simmer any Moroccan stew in a large pot.
Tajines, or tagines, are clay pots used for slow cooking.
A bowl of medjool dates, which are sometimes included in tajines.
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  • Written By: M.C. Huguelet
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 11 November 2014
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The term tajine, also commonly spelled tagine, can be used to refer to both a specially-shaped cooking pot which originated in North Africa and to a stew-like dish which is cooked in this pot. A tajine pot is usually made from clay and features a dome-shaped lid. The dish known as tajine usually consists of an inexpensive meat which is slow-cooked over a low heat with vegetables, fruits, nuts, and a mix of many spices. While tajines are most often associated with countries like Morocco and Algeria, they have since the late 20th century found some popularity in Western nations.

A tajine pot is usually made from clay and has a terra cotta hue, although some tajines are embellished with colorful glazes and intricate designs. Normally, these pots consist of two parts: a fairly shallow, round or square base and a dome- or funnel-shaped lid. During cooking, this unusually-shaped lid collects released steam which then trickles back into the stew, preventing the ingredients from becoming dried out. The top of this lid often culminates in a “knob” of clay which remains cool during cooking, allowing the lid to be removed without burning the fingers. After a tajine is cooked, the lid is removed and the dish is served directly from the pot’s base.

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Additionally, tajine can refer to a stew cooked in the pot of the same name and consisting of an inexpensive meat mixed with vegetables, fresh or dried fruits, a number of spices, nuts, and a cooking liquid such as broth. These ingredients are cooked for several hours over a low heat. Usually, this long cooking time causes even the most inexpensive cuts of meat to become extremely tender. Meats commonly found in tajines include lamb and chicken, although many different types of meat and seafood can be prepared in this fashion.

Tajines are most often associated with the North African countries in which they originated, such as Morocco and Algeria. As of the late 20th century, however, they have begun to enjoy popularity in some Western nations. North African restaurants can be found in many large cities in countries like the US, England, and France, and tajine pots can be purchased at many gourmet kitchenware stores around the world.

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