The word tagine (also spelled “tajine”) is twofold: it is the name of a quintessential Moroccan meal, as well as the clay pot in which the food is cooked. Tagine the cooking vessel is a round earthenware pot with a conical lid, while tagine the dish refers to rich, savory stews cooked low and slow, resulting in fall-off-the-bone meat or perfectly stewed vegetables immersed in a thick sauce flavored by spices, herbs, and dried fruits.
There is no need to own a ceramic tagine pot in order to make the dish at home. Slow-cooking and braising meat and vegetables in a Dutch oven, braiser, casserole dish, or metal pot will result in the same delicious tagine.
Tagine, the Pot
The tagine (pronounced tah-jeen) cooking pot has worked its magic in Morocco for centuries. The design of this seemingly modest piece of pottery makes it one of the best vessels for braising foods. The bottom of the tagine is shallow, shaped like a pie dish, and glazed on the top. The lid is uniquely conical and glazed only on the outside, with a round handle at the top of the cone. When food slowly simmers in a tagine, the resulting steam hits the lid’s unglazed interior. But instead of condensing back into the food, as it would in a metal pot, the steam is absorbed by the unglazed clay, resulting in a reduced and concentrated sauce.
The tagine is the perfect vessel for preparing moist, golden chicken with the salty tang of olives, succulent lamb steeped in sauce sweetened with dried fruit, or tender fillets of fish brightened with herbs and spices. Often colorfully painted or engraved with Moroccan patterns, ceramic tagines also make beautiful serving dishes.
Tagine, the Meal
Tagines are also the name of the classic Moroccan meals traditionally cooked in the pot: savory slow-cooked stews, typically made with meat or fish and a variety of vegetables, spices, and herbs, and served with khobz (Moroccan bread). The slow cooking process brings out deep and complex flavors, a rich homestyle sauce, and meltingly tender meat, fish, or vegetables. The versatile nature of the dish encourages a free spirit: home cooks can use a range of ingredients to make it their own and create a warm, comforting, and always delightful one-pot meal.
Traditional Tagine Spices and Ingredients
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. Popular tagine spices include the staples of Moroccan cuisine, such as garlic, ginger, turmeric, saffron, cumin, paprika, ras el hanout, black pepper, and salt. Among the great Moroccan tagine combinations are lamb stewed with dried fruit, chicken with preserved lemons and green olives, and fish cooked in chermoula (Morocco’s all-purpose marinade) with tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, olives, and lemons.
How to Use a Tagine
You don’t need an elaborate tagine to create rich, flavorful stews—the simplest tagine will work as well as the fanciest-looking one. However, before using, ensure that you have a ceramic or clay tagine meant for cooking, rather than a piece of decorative serveware.
If you buy an authentic Moroccan tagine, soak it in water for an hour and let air-dry before cooking for the first time to reduce the risk of cracking. Treat with olive oil to create a light protective coating. As any other clay cookware, tagines can crack when exposed to high heat, therefore try to avoid cooking at a temperature higher than 325° F (160° C) and refrain from exposing your tagine to drastic temperature changes: if cooking on the stovetop, always use low heat.
Making Tagines Without a Tagine
You don’t need a tagine to cook rich and flavorful stews. Instead of the traditional Moroccan pot, simply use a deep cast-iron pan (such as a Dutch oven), a baking or casserole dish, or any sort of braiser, and cover with a lid.
When using either a traditional tagine or another pot, you can leave meat cooking for an hour or more on its own—just check water levels occasionally. If the cooking liquid levels are low due to evaporation, simply add a bit more water. Add pitted green or purple beldi olives and other additions 15 to 30 minutes before the dish is ready so that they keep their texture.
How to Use Mina Tagine Simmering Sauces
Mina Moroccan Chicken Tagine Sauce
Chop one onion and place in a pot or braiser. Add pieces of chicken (preferably on the bone) on top and cover evenly with Mina tagine sauce. Cover and cook on low heat for one hour (if using a braiser, cook at 400°). If using oven method, uncover, add one cup of pitted green or purple beldi olives, and cook for an additional 15 minutes. Serve with couscous, rice, or crusty bread.
Mina Moroccan Lamb/Beef Sauce
In a braiser or deep cast-iron pot, brown pieces of lamb or beef on high heat for a few minutes. Add one chopped onion and distribute one jar of Mina tagine sauce evenly. Cover and cook on low heat for one hour (if using a braiser, cook at 350°). Add dried fruit, cover, and cook for an additional 15 minutes or until meat is fork tender. Garnish with chopped toasted almonds and serve with couscous, rice, or crusty bread.
Mina Moroccan Fish Tagine Sauce
Pour half of the jar of Mina tagine sauce in a deep pot or baking dish and arrange sliced vegetables, such as carrots, potatoes, and green bell pepper, on top. Place fish on top of the vegetables and pour the rest of the tagine sauce over everything. Top with one cup dark olives and sliced lemon. Cover and cook on low heat for 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the size of the fish (if using a braiser, cook at 400°). Serve with couscous, rice, or crusty bread.