How to Make a Tagine
The complex flavors of a great tagine come from layering the ingredients into the vessel and then slowly cooking them into a rich stew.
- Aromatic vegetables go into the tagine first, providing a flavorful base on the bottom of the pan that protects the meat or fish from direct heat.
- A snug layer of meat or fish sits atop the bed of vegetables, and any excess marinade is also added to contribute its flavor to the dish.
- Additional fruits and vegetables are arranged decoratively around the meat or fish, or laid on top. Sometimes they’re added raw or parcooked first, and other times they’re cooked separately and added near the end.
- The tagine ingredients slowly braise to tenderness inside the pot, with the lid slightly ajar to allow for a bit of evaporation and concentration of flavors. Swapping the spoon position halfway through cooking helps the stew cook evenly.
- There should be ample sauce at the end of cooking, so check on the tagine from time to time; add a few tablespoons of water if it seems to be drying out.
- If the sauce is watery or thin by the time the meat and vegetables are fork-tender, remove the lid and simmer until it thickens a bit. If it’s too thick, stir in more water. Keep in mind that the tagine ingredients continue to soak up the sauce as it sits, so any prolonged resting time will result in a less saucy, but no less flavorful, tagine.
Make an aromatic base layer.
Arrange marinated meat or fish on top.
Layer fruits and vegetables around and over the meat.
Cook slowly, partially covered.
Add water if the tagine looks dry.
Adjust the sauce consistency before serving.
- Tagines are available in a variety of materials, from traditional terra-cotta clay to modern glazed ceramic and cast iron.
- Earthenware tagines come glazed and unglazed. The latter impart an earthier flavor to food and darken over time with use; they are ideal if you plan to cook with the tagine regularly. Glazed tagines are best for tagine novices or those who cook with them infrequently, as they can be stored for longer without taking on any odors.
- Before using a traditional earthenware tagine for the first time, glazed or not, you may need to season it to strengthen the tagine and, if unglazed, remove the raw clay flavor. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Earthenware tagines shouldn’t be used over heat higher than medium to avoid scorching or damage, and some manufacturers call for low heat only; if so, the recipes here will take longer. Metal diffusers, which evenly distribute heat, are useful for prolonging a tagine’s life span.
- Do not subject earthenware tagines to sudden changes in temperature.
- If small cracks appear with use, they won’t affect the tagine’s performance. Deep cracks mean it’s time for a new tagine.
- You can use a heavy-duty Dutch oven or wide, heavy skillet with a lid instead of a tagine; keep the lid slightly ajar. As long as the food cooks slowly and gently, the results will be similar.
Cleaning and Storing
- Let your tagine cool completely before hand-washing in warm soapy water. Rinse, dry with a soft cloth, and, if earthenware, brush the interior with olive oil before storing in a cool, dry place.