Just the word tagine (tajine) conjures images of exotic places like Morocco and seductive spices from faraway lands.
For the uninitiated, tagine is a method of cooking steeped in traditional from the time the Queen of Sheba brought spices to King Solomon. This explanation is courtesy of Pat Crocker, author of 150 Best Tagine Recipes.
A tagine is a rustic earthenware two-piece cooking pot with a dome shaped lid to slow cook dishes that result in complex flavored delicately spiced meat and vegetables. The dome lid allows moisture and steam to circulate around the food so it poaches as it cooks and becomes incredibly tender.
Moroccan tagines often combine lamb or chicken with a medley of ingredients or seasonings: olives, quinces, apples, pears, apricots, raisins, prunes, dates, nuts, with fresh or preserved lemons, with or without honey, with or without a complexity of spices. (My mouth is watering.)
So what if you don’t want to buy another pot, can you use a Dutch oven?
According to the author Ms. Crocker, “It’s best to use an actual tagine, for the best results but if you’re absolutely stuck, it is possible to use either a dutch oven or a deep oven-safe casserole dish for long, slow cooking. All of these recipes have been designed for use with an actual tagine.”
You can also use a tagine to make pot roasts, osso buco, lamb shanks and turkey legs.
Recipe: Beef Tagine with Squash and Beets
Rustic and hearty, this warming winter tagine uses ginger and hot chile pepper for a touch of spicy heat.
Author tip: The use of organic, cold-pressed extra virgin avocado oil in the tagine recipes is recommended because it is excellent for medium to high heat cooking. Unlike other polyunsaturated oils, olive oil in particular, avocado oil does not break down under high heat cooking. It is an excellent source of vitamin E and contains beneficial omega-3, 6 and 9 fatty acids.
Makes 4 to 6 servings
Medium or large tagine
3 tbsp avocado or olive oil
1 onion, cut in half and sliced
1 tbsp Ras el Hanout (page 50) or hot sauce
1 lb cubed stewing beef
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 hot chile pepper, chopped, or
1 dried cayenne pepper, crushed
1 slice candied ginger, chopped
4 medium beets, quartered
2 cups diced squash
1 cup beef broth
2 oranges, cut into segments
2 cups fresh or frozen chopped Swiss chard
1?2 cup chopped fresh cilantro or flat-leaf parsley
1. In the bottom of a flameproof tagine, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and Ras el Hanout* and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add beef, garlic, chile pepper and ginger, stirring well to coat beef with vegetables and seasonings. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 7 to 10 minutes or until beef is browned on all sides.
2. Add beets, squash and broth and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Cover with tagine lid, reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes. Add oranges and Swiss chard, replace lid and cook for 15 to 20 minutes. Beef should cut easily with a fork and if not quite tender, replace cover and cook until beef is tender. Garnish with parsley.
*Ras el Hanout is a particular blend of Moroccan spices.
PAT CROCKER is an international award-winning cookbook author, culinary herbalist and professional home economist. Two of her books have won World Gourmand Cookbook awards and Pat is the 2011 recipient of the ‘Professional Award’ from the International Herb Association as well as the Literary Award from the Herb Society of America (2009). Pat lives in Neustadt, Ontario.