The tagine is by far the most popular cooking item in Morocco. No matter where you are in the country, you will find one in the kitchen. The word “tagine” specifically refers to a clay pot with a cone-shaped lid that slowly cooks meats and vegetables until they are moist and oh so tender. After an hour or so of cooking time, Moroccans usually sit in a circle around the dish and eat one with bread, called hobs. Mealtime is for family, community, and enjoying the delicious flavors together.
There are many ways to make a tagine. Meat, chicken, fish, vegetables or a mixture of vegetables and any of the aforementioned meats are the main staples, but you could easily adapt a recipe to fit your own flavor profile.
So, where do you turn to when you’re in the market for a tagine? We recommend you go to a seller at one of the local vegetable markets around town or, better yet, to head to the wholesale shops at Souk Rabeaa. Once there, you’ll see plenty of lovely clay work on display, all of which is handmade. Products range from pots to ashtrays to plates to ceramic lamps. The selection is seemingly endless, and each piece is thoughtfully made, with great attention to detail. We recommend that when shopping for a tagine you stick to either the plain or shiny red-clay tagines for cooking. If you simply can’t go home without one of the more colorful designs, you should only use it for plating finished dishes. While beautiful, the most intricately painted tagines tend to either burn food or crack.
We have a few tips for at-home tagine care… The first thing you should do after you bring your tagine home is let it soak it in water overnight. This will help increase the shelf-life of your tagine. Remember that while cooking a tagine in a barbecue over wood kindling is ideal, you can cook your tagine on anything from coals to flames to gas or electric stovetops. Just be sure to cook over low heat! The surefire way to crack a tagine is to cook it over excessive heat. Also, consider buying a metal ring to fit around your tagine (you’ll see them at any shop selling tagines), these can be easily attached and feature a metal plate on the bottom that helps to ensure even cooking and an adjustable fastener that holds the tagine together in the event of a small crack.
Stop by Souk Rabeaa to pick up a tagine, and bring Moroccan cuisine home with you!