Student Research – Meagan Plaiss

Tajine Handbook

Compiled by: Meagan Plaiss

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Tajine Origin & History:

  • Moroccan and South African way of cooking
  • Tajines are traditionally made of earthenware, flameware, or other clay.
  • Tajine is the name of the cooking dish as well as the traditionally cooked in them.
  • Tajines are traditionally eaten in a community like setting with diners gathered around the Tajine.
  • Traditionally a Tajine dish is eaten by hand, using pieces of bread to scoop up meat, vegetables, and sauce.

What you need to know:

Cleaning the Tajine

  • Do not wash the Tajine with common dish soap! The soap could be absorbed by the ceramic and could result in soap tasting meals.
  • A mix of hot water and baking soda or vinegar should be used to wash the Tajine.
  • After each washing allow Tajine to completely dry, then coat with olive oil. The coating further seasons the Tajine and helps to prevent molding.
  • Use of a plastic spatula or other hard plastic utensil can be used to scrape off burnt pieces. Do not use metal utensils as they scratch or chip the surface.
  • If you scorch something in the Tajine and can’t scrape the burnt residue from the bottom, try this method:
    • Fill the Tajine 1/3 full with water and place over a medium-low heat; add a tablespoon or two of baking soda and bring to a simmer. Leave the liquids to simmer for a half hour and see if the residue has loosened. If not, leave the baking soda mixture in the Tajine overnight (off the heat, of course); often the long soak will do the trick.

Changing appearance over time

  • Tajines are similar to cast-iron in a sense they gain seasoning the more you cook in them. This adds more flavor to each dish cooked in them after.
  • Darkening or staining is to be expected with use and is a desirable characteristic.
  • Traditional ceramic Tajines will crack if exposed to high heat. Therefore, use a low burner setting for stovetop cooking, or an oven temperature of no more than 325.
    • This Tajine is flameware, opposed to stoneware or earthenware, and can withstand higher temperatures. I have not experimented with using the flameware in an oven higher than 475. To be on the safe side, I would not heat higher than 475.
    • A good usage guideline to follow for beginning users is to use only as much heat as necessary for maintaining a simmer.
  • Traditional Tajines also crack if exposed to dramatic changes in temperature. To insure the Tajine will not crack, avoid adding cold food or liquid to a hot Tajine as well as placing a hot Tajine on a cold surface.
    • Again, this is a flameware Tajine, not a traditional earthenware. This flameware has been tested to withstand dramatic temperature changes and should be able to go straight from boiling oven, into the freezer. Although, I’m not sure why you would ever have to do such a thing.

Advantages to cooking with the Tajine

    • You can cook with the Tajine in the oven, on the stove-top, or over an open flame like a campfire or grill.
      • Be aware that when cooking over an open flame, it can be difficult to maintain a low temperature. Starting a small fire for the initial heat source then adding small amounts of new fuel, to maintain a simmer in the Tajine, is a recommended method for open flame cooking.
    • The conical lid helps trap moisture and circulate it back towards the food in the base. This keeps foods tender like beans or meat.
    • The Tajine is a cooking pan and serving dish all in one. It looks nice on a dinner table compared to a big steel and plastic pot.
    • Great at keeping food warm if you have to wait for dinner guests or for gatherings when people are eating at different times.

What you can cook in the Tajine:

  • Just about anything. The Tajine is a type of slow cooker, you can try any crock-pot recipe!
    • Stews, meat, beans, vegetables, couscous, rice, fruits, breads.
    • Frozen snacks.
      • Just because it comes with a lid, that doesn’t mean you must use it. The base is a small circular version of a cookie sheet.
    • The Tajine is a type of slow cooker, similar to a crockpot. Any slow cooker recipe should translate well to the Tajine.
  • Common Spices/spice mixes
    • Ras el Hanout: works well with fish and chicken and vegetables
      • Equal parts paprika, coriander, ginger and a pinch of saffron OR just ground coriander.

Tagine Again (9)

  • Baharat: works well with meat poultry seafood and vegetables (more intense flavor than Ras el Hanout)
    • Equal parts paprika, pepper, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and nutmeg.
  • Common Seasonings and ingredients traditionally used
    • Saffron, parsley, cilantro, sage, thyme, lemons, olives, sesame seeds, almonds, flour, wheat, barley, semolina, couscous, sugar, honey, dried beans, dried fruits, khlii, smen, harissa, warga are all common ingredients used to cook and season traditional recipes.

Things to keep in mind while cooking:

  • Oil is essential to Tajine cooking; don’t be overly cautious in using it or you’ll end up with watery sauce or possibly scorched ingredients. In most recipes for 4 to 6 people, you’ll need between 1/4 to 1/3 cup of oil (sometimes part butter), which will mix with cooking liquids to make ample sauce for scooping up with bread. Olive oil gives the best flavor and has added health benefits compared to other oils.
  • Keep in mind that vegetables and meats go into the vessel at the very beginning. This is different from conventional pot cooking, where vegetables are added only after the meat has already become tender.
  • Less water is required when cooking in a tajine because the cone-shaped top condenses steam and returns it to the dish
  • Let the tajine reach a simmer slowly and know that poultry takes about two hours to cook while beef or lamb may take up to four hours.
  • Try not to interrupt the cooking by frequently lifting the lid to check on the food; that’s best left for adding ingredients or to check on the level of liquids toward the end of cooking.

 

Recipes:

 

Moroccan Chicken Tagine with Apricots

Ingredients:

1 chicken, 3 1/2 to 4 lb., cut into 8 pieces

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Salt and pepper $

2 tablespoons unsalted butter $

2 tablespoons vegetable oil $

1 small onion, chopped $

1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth $

2 cloves garlic, minced $$

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Small pinch saffron threads, crumbled and dissolved in broth, optional

10 to 12 dried apricots, halved or quartered if large

1 cup pitted green olives, halved

2 teaspoons lemon juice $

1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, optional

Preparation

 

  1. Rinse chicken with cool water and pat dry. Combine flour, 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper in a shallow bowl. Dredge chicken in seasoned flour, shaking off excess.

 

  1. Melt butter with oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When foam subsides, cook chicken, turning often, until golden brown, about 10 minutes (work in batches if necessary). Transfer to a slow cooker. Pour off all but 1 Tbsp. of fat from skillet.

 

  1. Add onion to skillet and cook, stirring often, until slightly softened, about 2 minutes. (If pan begins to scorch, add some of the broth and continue stirring.) Add garlic; sauté 1 minute longer. Stir in paprika, cumin and cinnamon and stir until fragrant, about 15 seconds (mixture will be dry). Pour in broth, increase heat to high and bring to a boil, stirring to pick up any browned bits. Boil until liquid is reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Pour mixture over chicken in slow cooker.

 

  1. Cover and cook on high for 2 1/2 to 3 hours or on low for 5 to 6 hours. About 1 hour before chicken is done, scatter apricots and olives over chicken and sprinkle with lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper.

 

  1. Transfer chicken to a serving platter and spoon pan juices with apricots and olives over and around chicken. Sprinkle with almonds. Garnish with parsley, if desired, and serve.

Cook’s Notes:

Remember that low and slow is the way to go. If you cook on a high temp your chicken will scorch and stick to the Tajine and clean up will be terrible! This recipe says to cook the chicken until golden brown but this will take a while and on a low temp setting the chicken will get done before your outside browns. Just remember you are not frying chicken. You are precooking it to insure thorough cooking. When your chicken begins to fall off the bone, it’s done. I like to cook couscous with this dish and serve the chicken on a bed of it. Enjoy!

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Ras el Hanout Spiced Poached Pears

Ingredients:

4 Large Anjou pears

¾ C sugar

¼ C ( ½ stick) unsalted butter

1 ½ C orange juice

2 tsp Vietnamese Cinnamon

1 tsp Ras el Hanout

 

Preparation:

Peel and core the pears, then trim the bottoms slightly so they sit flat. In a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat, stir the sugar with ¼ cup water until it dissolves. Raise the heat to high, and cook until the syrup comes to a boil and turns golden brown, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, whisk in the butter and 2 TBSP of water. Slowly, whisk in orange juice to combine.

 

Add the pears to the sauce, position them well apart from each other. Sprinkle with cinnamon, and cook over low heat for 10 minutes, pushing the pears around occasionally with a spatula, so they won’t stick. Sprinkle ras el hanout over the pears and cook until softened, about 15 minutes longer. Serve with drizzled sauce.

Cook’s Notes:

These guys are tough to cook. As always cook on low, the recipe calls for high heat at one point. That is fine for the sugar and water mix but once you put the pears in make sure the temp setting is on low. High cooking heat will again cause the pears to scorch. The recipe also calls for you to core the pears. I skipped this step and cut the cooked pears into sections around the core. The cooking time for the pears alone will very. Rotate the pears every 20mins (low heat) to ensure they do not stick and scorch. I also turned the pears every rotation so that the part of the pear above the liquid was also submerged. The pears are done when soft to the touch and can be easily cut. If you like yours more firm, feel free to cook them that way. Enjoy!

Tagine Again (12)

 

Nectarine & Pomegranate Tajine

Ingredients:

6 (1kg / 2lb 4oz) large ripe nectarines

100ml / 3 ½ floz orange liquor (Cointreau or Grand Marnier)

1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses

1 vanilla pod

2 tablespoons palm sugar

Seeds from one fresh pomegranate or 115g / 4oz ready prepared chilled seeds

Small handful fresh mint

300ml / 10 floz Greek yoghurt

2 tablespoons honey

 

Instructions:

Wash the fruit and place into the base of the Tagine

Pour over the liquor and pomegranate molasses.

Split the vanilla pod in half lengthways; push the two pieces between the fruit and sprinkle over the palm sugar.

Place on the lid and cook the fruit over a very low heat for 50 minutes to 1hr.

Lift the fruit from the syrup with a slotted spoon onto a plate. Allow to cool for a few minutes and peel away the skins.

Reduce the syrup in the base of the Tagine by about a half. Remove the vanilla pod.

Return the fruit to the Tagine base and coat in the reduced syrup. Sprinkle over the pomegranate seeds and the picked leaves from the mint.

Place the yoghurt into a serving dish and swirl in the honey.

Serve the Tagine, with the honey yoghurt to be added at the table.

 

Cook’s notes

As always cook on low. Rotate peaches every 20mins (low heat) to ensure they do not scorch on the side against the bottom of the Tajine. Slice segments of the peach around the core after cooking. The peaches are done when soft to the touch. If you like yours more firm, feel free to cook them that way.

Peaches can be used in the place of nectarines if desired.

Pomegranate molasses is a sweet tart sauce made from a reduction of pomegranate juice. It is often used in Middle Eastern cuisine as an alternative to lemon.

To remove the seeds from a fresh pomegranate cut the fruit in half, hold the fruit cut side down over a bowl and tap the skin firmly with a spoon.

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Other Great Places to Look:

 

For Artists:

http://cookonclay.com

http://www.facebook.com/travelingtajine

http://www.plaisspottery.wordpress.com

 

For Recipes:

http://www.amazon.com/Food-Morocco-Paula-Wolfert/dp/0061957550/

http://www.amazon.com/Tagine-Spicy-Morocco-Ghillie-Basan/dp/1845974794

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/melissa-darabian/chicken-tagine-recipe.html

http://www.cookingwithalia.com/tajines-2/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pclYJyNPz-A

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nYelMfhvOTk

My 3 Favourite Spice Blends (and their substitutes)

http://verygoodrecipes.com/moroccan/tajine

http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/moroccan-chicken-tagine-apricots

 

For more about the Tajine:

http://moroccanfood.about.com/od/tipsandtechniques/ht/Season_Tagine.htm

http://moroccanfood.about.com/od/moroccanfood101/f/How-to-Use-Tagine.htm

http://cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/21254/can-i-use-a-tagine-on-a-glass-cooktop-and-do-i-need-a-heat-diffuser

http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2014/09/24/tagine_recipe_for_rosh_hashanah_yom_kippur_or_just_because_you_re_hungry.html

http://www.tagines.com/