The Succulent Flavors of the Moroccan Tajine
Tajine is both the name given to the wide variety of stews found on the menus of eating places throughout Morocco, as well as the name of the earthenware container in which the stew is cooked. This delicious North African cuisine, which is generally eaten by dipping bread into the communal bowl, is a firm favorite among Moroccans, as well as tourists visiting this fascinating country.
A tajine is formed out of heavy clay that can be painted or glazed. The container consists of two parts – a flat circular base with low sides, plus a large cone-shaped cover that rests inside the base during the cooking process. The cone-shaped cover is designed in such a way that the condensation from the cooking process falls back into the food ensuring that all the flavor and nutritional value are retained. The tajine is cooked over a number of hours at a low heat and the best results are achieved if the dish is left undisturbed during cooking. Once the food is ready to eat, the cover is removed and the base of the tajine is used to serve this marvelous Moroccan dish.
The slow cooking process of a tajine turns even less-expensive cuts of meat into tender, tasty fare and the endless variety of combinations of ingredients that can be used in a tajine keeps the meal interesting. Moroccan tajines are often a combination of fish, lamb or chicken with a variety of other ingredients and seasonings. Additional ingredients include olives, apples, quinces, pears, apricots, prunes, dates, raisins, nuts, honey and lemons. Traditional tajine-flavoring spices include saffron, cinnamon, ginger, cumin, turmeric, paprika, pepper and the popular Ras-el-hanout – an Arabic word meaning “head of the shop” referring to a mixture of the very best spices in the spice seller’s shop.
Tajine is becoming increasingly popular in other parts of the world. European manufacturers have made use of the concept of tajine cooking and created tajines with heavy cast iron bases which allow meat to be braised at high temperatures and have adapted recipes to suit their own tastes and locally available ingredients. However, to enjoy a truly authentic tajine served in the traditional way, among people who view this delicious meal as part of their daily lives, the beautiful country of Morocco is the place to go.