How to make tagine

Central to North African cuisine, tagines are easy to make but use ingredients that may be unfamiliar to you. Our simple guide unlocks the mystery of this Moroccan classic.

How to make tagine

What is a tagine?

how to make tagine

 

Tagine is a Moroccan word, referring to both the glazed earthenware cooking vessel with a conical lid (above), and the stew cooked and served within it. Make sure you get one that can be used on the hob. Le Creuset (from department stores) and Emile Henry (visit Armorica for mail order) both make excellent tagines. The shape of the lid allows condensed steam to run back down into the base, keeping the food moist and tender.

The flavours in a tagine

A tagine is made from either lamb, beef, chicken or fish flavoured with onions, garlic, aromatic herbs and spices and can include a mixture of vegetables, fresh and dried fruits, olives and chickpeas. A classic dish is chicken and preserved lemon tagine recipe, which combines all the traditional flavours. The result is a flavoursome sweet-and-sour summer stew with tender meat and vegetables and a lovely brothy stock, which is then poured over the couscous to soak up all the juices.

North African ingredients

Cinnamon

Coriander

Coriander seeds

Couscous

The perfect accompaniment to a tagine, couscous is traditionally steamed 2 or 3 times over the cooking meat or vegetables in an open steamer called a couscousière (the stew cooks in the bottom section), absorbing flavour as it cooks. If you’re in a hurry, pre-cooked couscous is fine. Also try wholemeal couscous – it has a nutty flavour and keeps its shape well once cooked.

Dried fruit & almonds

Dried ginger

Fresh ginger

Harissa

A fiery condiment made from chilli, garlic and spices, which is usually served alongside a tagine. You can buy it from major supermarkets or to make your own, deseed 10 large, dried ancho chillies (visit Cool Chile for mail order) and soak in water for an hour. Drain and add to a mini processor with 5 fat garlic cloves, and 2 large pinches of salt. Blitz to a rough paste with a little water. Stir in 2 tsp ground coriander and 1 tsp ground cumin, put in a jar and cover with a layer of olive oil. Chill for up to a month – re-cover with oil each time you use it.

Parsley

Ras el hanout

An aromatic spice blend used in tagines. Most versions contain a dozen spices such as cumin, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, coriander seeds, cloves and allspice. Some blends even include rose petals, lavender flowers and saffron. Look out for the Seasoned Pioneers’ blend at major supermarkets.

Saffron

Shallots & garlic

 

Cheat’s preserved lemons

preserved lemon

Preserved lemon is used sparingly in a tagine to add that wonderful sour flavour to the dish. Add quartered or finely chopped – see the chicken and preserved lemon tagine recipe. However, they’re easy and rewarding to make if you plan ahead, but if you’re short of time try this cheat’s method: pile 4 lemons into a small pan, add 100g salt and enough cold water to cover. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 1 hour, topping the water level up as necessary to keep the lemons submerged. They will keep for 5 days in a sealed jar in the fridge. You can also buy them – we like Belazu Pickled Lemons (from supermarkets and delis).

Peppermint tea

The national drink of Morocco, this makes a refreshing brew when served with spicy tagines. The real stuff involves something of a ritual but try this lighter version. Gently crush a large handful of fresh mint sprigs with your fingers and put in a warmed teapot or heatproof glasses. Add a sugar cube or mild honey to taste, then top up with just-boiled water. Leave to infuse for 5 minutes before pouring or drinking.


delicious. tagine recipes

Summer vegetable tagine

Summer vegetable tagine

Vary the vegetables you use according to what’s in season for this moreish Moorish vegetarian tagine recipe.

Chicken and preserved lemon tagine

Chicken and preserved lemon tagine

This is one of the best known and loved tagines. Accompany with houmous, flatbread and a few mezze dishes to make it an affordable dinner party or Sunday lunch spread.

Easy lamb tagine

Easy lamb tagine

A great recipe for using up storecupboard spices – cumin, ginger, coriander and cinnamon. And it's low in calories too.

Aubergine and chestnut tagine with herb couscous

Aubergine and chestnut tagine with herb couscous

This is a flavoursome vegetarian tagine.

Quick lamb tagine

Quick lamb tagine

Take your tastebuds on a Moroccan adventure. Boned chicken thighs are also fantastic in this Moroccan sauce.

 

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