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Wolfert

Moroccan Tagine Cooking

537 posts in this topic

Moderator's Note: This thread began as an offshoot in the eGCI braising class Q&A. Member Smithy asked:

Would you please expand a bit on the idea of browning at the end of the braise?  Is that done by leaving the lid off and turning the meat as the liquid reduces?  Is this a stovetop or oven technique, or both?  I like the idea that it saves me from having to mess up a pan for browning when I plan to braise in a clay pot.  What difference does it make to the final product whether the browning happens at the beginning or the end?

In Moroccan cooking, this method is described as 'starting the tagine cold'

The lamb is not browned at the beginning of the braise. Instead, lamb is gently heated along with the spices and other ingredients, allowing the flavors to fully penetrate.

Remember you are cooking in a shallow tagine which can't take high heat from the start . I suppose this is one reason this method came about.

At the end of the braising period when the meat is succulent and the sauce is thick and rich and plentiful, it is usually browned by covering the bottom half of the tagine with a flat ceramic plate, then piling hot coals on top. A gorgeous glaze appears.

There are two ways to substitute: one is to broil at the end and the other is to place the tagine on the highest shelf of a hot oven and let the meat brown.

Don't worry aobut putting a tagine into a hot oven. It is now hot enough to take the heat without cracking. (Hot earthenware cracks when put onto something cold.)

by the way, you should never cook earthenware tagines with the conical top in the oven .The purpose of the conical top is to remain cold while the bottom maintains a nice coddling heat as the tagine slowly simmers to perfection..

Those braising Berbers were so smart!!!


Edited by JAZ (log)

“C’est dans les vieux pots, qu’on fait la bonne soupe!”, or ‘it is in old pots that good soup is made’.

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In Moroccan cooking, this method  is described as 'starting the tagine cold'

The  lamb is not browned at the beginning of the braise. Instead, lamb is gently heated along with the spices and other ingredients, allowing the flavors to fully penetrate.

Remember you are cooking in a shallow tagine which can't take high heat from the start . I suppose this is one reason this method came about.

At the end of the braising period when the meat is succulent and the sauce is thick and rich and plentiful, it is usually browned by covering the bottom half of the tagine with a flat ceramic plate, then piling hot coals on top. A gorgeous glaze appears.

There are two ways to substitute: one is to broil at the end and the other is to place the tagine on the highest shelf of a hot oven and let the meat brown.

Don't worry aobut putting a tagine into a hot oven. It is now hot enough to take the heat without cracking. (Hot earthenware cracks when put onto something cold.)

by the way, you should never cook earthenware  tagines with the conical top in the oven .The purpose of the conical top is to remain cold while the bottom maintains a nice coddling heat as the tagine slowly simmers to perfection..

Those braising Berbers were so smart!!!

This last point amazes me. A cooler! I suppose that helps with the condensation of the braising liquids.

Thanks for the extra information. I feel myself teetering toward a tagine purchase...heck, it's only money and cabinet space....Tagines.com may be getting some of my money soon. (Sure wish I could go overseas and pick one out myself!) The Riffian tagines come in 3 sizes (11", 12" or 13" diameter). Do you have a recommendation?


Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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Start with the middle one and make adjustments as you get used to cooking in a tagine. Use a heat diffuser to be safe.

When you get your riffian tagine, soak it as suggested. Then to give it a little "age," here is a trick I learned in Morocco: take some olive oil and fireplace ash from wood (not some ash from weird heating logs that are made of chemicals) and rub the top and bottom of the tagine inside and out. Bake both parts in a 250 0ven for for 10 hours. Cool, and repeat until it looks like the photo below.

You don't really need to do this,b ut it really looks great!

by the way,the knob on top is so cold that you won't need an oven mitt to lift it when cooking.

gallery_8703_615_1105809680.jpg


Edited by Wolfert (log)

“C’est dans les vieux pots, qu’on fait la bonne soupe!”, or ‘it is in old pots that good soup is made’.

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Do the Berbers usually put these tagines into the fire? Over coals? I realize their fires probably aren't big, but still - in their original use, do these tagines have flames coming up around the sides?


Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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No, wood is incredibly rare and expensive. A brazier such as in the photo below holds coals and the tagine is set on top.

The reason there are so many steamed foods in Moroccan cooking is cost effective: the double decker effect of cooking. For example, couscous steamed in an upper chamber with the stew bubbling below.

gallery_8703_615_1106277671.jpg


Edited by Wolfert (log)

“C’est dans les vieux pots, qu’on fait la bonne soupe!”, or ‘it is in old pots that good soup is made’.

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Wow, that's beautiful pottery! It's totally different than anything I've seen in Egypt. I think an eGullet clay-pot cooking tour is in order. You could do it as part of your book promo. Think of the fun we could have, just going across North Africa! Think of the luggage on the return trip! :laugh:

The top cone looks glazed and inscribed. Is it still a cooking vessel, or did you put a serving vessel up for show? What determines whether a tagine is a cooking vessel or a serving vessel? I notice the most heavily-decorated tagines on tagines.com are for serving only.


Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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The top cone looks glazed and inscribed. Is it still a cooking vessel, or did you put a serving vessel up for show? What determines whether a tagine is a cooking vessel or a serving vessel? I notice the most heavily-decorated tagines on tagines.com are for serving only.

Southern Moroccan tagines are rarely glazed inside or out but have a lot of mica inthe clay which makes them very strong and heavy. Similar to the American southwest.

The Riffian one is light in weight; the local clay isn't as strong. I use mine alot so don't worry about it.

This particular tagine is from Tangier and the outside of the cone is glazed, not the inside. The bottom part is glazed inside but not on the bottom. The etching is typically Berber. I haven't seen one like this in a long time. I've had this particular tagine for more than 40 years.

The decorated tagines are for show or for serving only. Be careful about lead in the glaze.


“C’est dans les vieux pots, qu’on fait la bonne soupe!”, or ‘it is in old pots that good soup is made’.

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To divert from tangines and back to the idea of braise and then brown, this idea is not limited to the Med. Look at Carnitas, or the following thread here which talks about beef rendang (inspired by Molly Steven's All About Braising).

There is something about these braised and then browned dishes that is distinctly different, and in my mind (or taste buds) more mysterious and deep than browned and braised.


Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"

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Paula -

So I get a tajine, but don't have a bed of coals and a ceramic plate to pile them on. How do I handle this in the oven, without putting the conical top on?

Do you do the braise uncovered? Cover the bottom half with foil or some other lid?

Or is the solution to put the conical top on and braise on the stovetop over a heat diffuser?

Thanks.


Edited by k43 (log)

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Use a heat diffuser and cook on low. If you have to leave the kitchen for awhile you can cover the tagine contents with a sheet of crumbled wet parchment and a loose lid and continue cooking in the oven.

Truthfully, tagines cook best on top of the stove where the heat just comes from below.

For the final browning, the clay in the tagine is hot enough to stand broiling or last minute browning in a hot oven.

Whatever you do, don't add cold liquid to a hot pot or a hot pot to a cold surface.

Paula -

So I get a tajine, but don't have a bed of coals and a ceramic plate to pile them on.  How do I handle this in the oven, without putting the conical top on?

Do you do the braise uncovered?  Cover the bottom half with foil or some other lid?

Or is the solution to put the conical top on and braise on the stovetop over a heat diffuser?

Thanks.


Edited by Wolfert (log)

“C’est dans les vieux pots, qu’on fait la bonne soupe!”, or ‘it is in old pots that good soup is made’.

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Note to the moderator: thanks for moving this!

Now, Ms. Wolfert: I managed to restrain myself the other day just before hitting the "checkout" button on the tagines.com web site. It occurred to me that I have an All-Clad braiser with a lid, an unglazed Egyptian clay pot of approximately the size and shape of the Riffian tagine bottom (no lid), and this glazed ceramic casserole with a lid. The unglazed pot and the glazed casserole are oven-proof but probably not stoveop-proof. The metal braiser, of course, goes either place.

What would the Moroccan tagine do for me, aside from looking way cool and giving me some thermodynamics to think about (that cooling tower on top), that these can't? I know it's stovetop unglazed clay - which I don't have - but I don't know how important that is. Am I shorting myself in the name of $40 if I don't get that tagine, or will my tagines come out well without it? Advice, please. Tax time is coming up...

Nancy


Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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Nancy,

It sounds as if you have all that is necessary to start cooking tagines right now. And here is why: with a heavy bottomed heat diffuser and a gas stove I bet you can cook tagines in your Egyptian unglazed pan if you set it on low and keep it on low . (It was probably used stove top in the first place!)

There is a heat diffuser for electric stoves but I don't know if it is as successful.

The shallow bottom is most important for braising meat for a "tagine." Tagines are the name of the pot and the dish it produces.

You use less liquid than in a deep casserole and the sauce emerges intense in texture and flavor. If you cook a tagine in your shallow Egyptian pan moisture won't be lost. Just be sure to place a crumbled sheet of wet parchment paper DIRECTLY over the food and then cover the pan.

On the stove top you don't lose as much moisture as in the oven because heat is only coming from the bottom and some heat from the shallow sides. In an oven heat is coming from all over and you have to seal the top or use a very tight cover to keep in the moisture..

The unglazed tagine such as the Riffian or the Egyptian one does even more than the glazed ones: it produces especially moist meat dishes with an unctuous tender texture; it develops a special "distinctive thumb print taste" of hand-crafted food that writers now fashionably call gout de terroir -- the taste of the earth; and it produces the pleasure of "coddling" food in clay, a pleasure both sensual and gustatory.

So spend your money on purchasing the best and freshest ground spices instead.

For those who are thinking about using their romertofp pan, I cannot answer the question. I have never tried. I intend to but I think adjustments need to be made.


Edited by Wolfert (log)

“C’est dans les vieux pots, qu’on fait la bonne soupe!”, or ‘it is in old pots that good soup is made’.

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This is cool. I find myself wanting one.

Paula: what style of tagine to you most recommend? I note that you say above that "Southern Moroccan tagines are rarely glazed inside or out but have a lot of mica inthe clay which makes them very strong and heavy. . . The Riffian one is light in weight; the local clay isn't as strong." I gather that unglazed is the way to go? Any suggestions?


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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Up until a few years ago, I used half glazed tagines for poultry and lamb, and a totally unglazed one called a tagra for fish.

Now I prefer unglazed pots because I really believe the more I use the unglazed tagines, the more delicious are my results.

The Riffian is good for baking, chicken tagine, and vegetable dishes. It can go on top of an electric stove with a heavy heat diffuser.

the tagines made in the south are not flat on the bottom (see photo below), so you need to take that into consideration when buying one. I use these for lamb.

There is a joke in Morocco that if a pot has a little saffron caught in its cone from years of cooking, then perhaps a little cumin, cardamom, sweet paprika, and ras el hanout gets into the pores, the pot will be so aromatic it won't need spices; the flavors will have all been trapped in the clay!

Don't worry, Moroccans certainly do wash their pots, but they don't soak them before using as you do with a romertopf. Thus the steaming qualities are different and the results are as well. Both are wonderful tools for claypot cooking.

gallery_8703_615_1105809926.jpg


Edited by Wolfert (log)

“C’est dans les vieux pots, qu’on fait la bonne soupe!”, or ‘it is in old pots that good soup is made’.

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In your Recipe for Moroccan Lamb Smothered with Lemon and Olives, you call for bringing the mixture to a boil over high heat, and then covering and simmering it. I think I've been reading that the tagines are okay on the stovetop over low heat only. Do you bring the mixture to the boil in another pan and then put it in the tagine to simmer over low heat? Or rather, is that what you'd recommend for my Egyptian bowl? What about the Riffian tagine that Mark bought and Sam may be about to buy? :biggrin:


Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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In your Recipe for Moroccan Lamb Smothered with Lemon and Olives, you call for bringing the mixture to a boil over high heat, and then covering and simmering it.  I think I've been reading that the tagines are okay on the stovetop over low heat only.  Do you bring the mixture to the boil in another pan and then put it in the tagine to simmer over low heat?  Or rather, is that what you'd recommend for my Egyptian bowl?  What about the Riffian tagine that Mark bought and Sam may be about to buy?   :biggrin:

That recipe was written for an enameled cast iron pot,and published in food and wine magazine back in the 80's before anyone has access to tagines. I really should remove it from the site. Or test it over and edit it!

You only need one pot and it should be the same one you serve in..

What I would do is put the claypot filled with whatever on low heat and slowly bring to a boil, then remove it from the heat for a minute to cool down, return to the lowest heat, cover and simmer for about 2 hours. Cooking time will depend on the age of the lamb. We're coming to spring now and young lamb will cook faster than mature meat.


“C’est dans les vieux pots, qu’on fait la bonne soupe!”, or ‘it is in old pots that good soup is made’.

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I just noticed this thread.

There are two ways to substitute: one is to broil at the end and the other is to place the tagine on the highest shelf of a hot oven and let the meat brown.

I use this method for a few Algerian chicken dishes as well. I place the chicken on a roasting pan though. The result is crispy chicken skin with the moist, tender slow cooked flavor of braised flesh. To serve sauce on a platter, than brown chicken on top.


I can be reached via email chefzadi AT gmail DOT com

Dean of Culinary Arts

Ecole de Cuisine: Culinary School Los Angeles

http://ecolecuisine.com

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Cool, one follow up question: I live in NYC and with the mountain of cookware I already have, multiple tagines is not a possibility. I am thinking of using it primarily on the stovetop. It seems that, if I were going to go for one all-purpose tagine, it might be better to have the heavier unglazed style? Would that be something like this? In re to the rounded bottom, is this something I could put over (low) direct heat on my gas stove, or would I still need to use a diffuser? Does the rounded bottom style really work with a diffuser, do you think? Also, is it just me, or does the thicker rounded style have a significantly smaller/shorter "chimney?" Does this make much of a difference?

Okay... that's more than one question. :smile:


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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That sounds like the best of both worlds.

e.

that


“C’est dans les vieux pots, qu’on fait la bonne soupe!”, or ‘it is in old pots that good soup is made’.

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undefinedCool, one follow up question: I live in NYC and with the mountain of cookware I already have, multiple tagines is not a possibility. I am thinking of using it primarily on the stovetop. It seems that, if I were going to go for one all-purpose tagine, it might be better to have the heavier unglazed style? Would that be something like this? In re to the rounded bottom, is this something I could put over (low) direct heat on my gas stove, or would I still need to use a diffuser? Does the rounded bottom style really work with a diffuser, do you think? Also, is it just me, or does the thicker rounded style have a significantly smaller/shorter "chimney?" Does this make much of a difference?

The Riffian is unglazed and is the cheapest. It can go over gas or electricity with a diffuser. The clay is different in the Rif mountains than in central and southern Morocco, resulting in a lighter pot.

The one with the rounded bottom can go over direct gas heat because it is stronger. It is the mica in the clay; you can actually see the specs of it throughout.

Both will give you that 'cone' effect of flavor transfer with time.


Edited by Wolfert (log)

“C’est dans les vieux pots, qu’on fait la bonne soupe!”, or ‘it is in old pots that good soup is made’.

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That recipe was written for an enameled cast iron pot,and published in food and wine magazine back in the 80's before anyone has access to tagines. I really should remove it from the site. Or test it over and edit it!

You only need one pot and it should be the same one you serve in..

What I would do is put the claypot filled with whatever on low heat and slowly bring to a boil, then remove it from the heat for a minute to cool down, return to the lowest heat, cover and simmer for about 2 hours. Cooking time will depend on the age of the lamb. We're coming to spring now and young lamb will cook faster than mature meat.

Too late to pull it, I've printed it and am cooking it! So now I have a couple of questions:

- Step 1 says, among other things, to "toss the lamb with the spice mixture over very low heat for 2 minutes." Since I'm using an Egyptian clay pot on the stovetop for the first time, I'm being a real weenie about it: very low heat, electric coil with a flame tamer. So now I'd like to know how one determines "very low heat" and the "two minutes" bit. What should I have been looking for? I added the water, onion and herbs before the pot even got warm, for fear of shattering the pot. Of course, since the pot wasn't warm the meat was still quite cool. It was well-coated with the spice mixture.

- Step 3 says to transfer the cooked meat to an ovenproof serving dish and bake it at 450F for 15 - 20 minutes. You stated upthread that you wrote this recipe in the days before tagines were available in the U.S.A. and this recipe can be done with one pot. I'm doing the preliminary cooking now, to finish tomorrow (I hope) night. I think I'll let the tagine warm to nearly room temperature, then place it in the oven and let the over heat everything to 450F at the same time. Does that sound right?

Nancy


Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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Step 1 says, among other things, to "toss the lamb with the spice mixture over very low heat for 2 minutes." Since I'm using an Egyptian clay pot on the stovetop for the first time, I'm being a real weenie about it: very low heat, electric coil with a flame tamer. So now I'd like to know how one determines "very low heat" and the "two minutes" bit. What should I have been looking for?

you want to warm the all the spices in order to release their aromas and soften the meat and the fat.

I added the water, onion and herbs before the pot even got warm, for fear of shattering the pot.

that's ok

Of course, since the pot wasn't warm the meat was still quite cool. It was well-coated with the spice mixture.

You have a natural feel for cooking North African food. I feel very confident everything will be ok with the dish.

- Step 3 says to transfer the cooked meat to an ovenproof serving dish and bake it at 450F for 15 - 20 minutes. You stated upthread that you wrote this recipe in the days before tagines were available in the U.S.A. and this recipe can be done with one pot. I'm doing the preliminary cooking now, to finish tomorrow (I hope) night. I think I'll let the tagine warm to nearly room temperature, then place it in the oven and let the over heat everything to 450F at the same time. Does that sound right?

You might want to degrease the sauce on top of the stove. Then reduce it if it is too thin. The rest of your reasoning is right on.


“C’est dans les vieux pots, qu’on fait la bonne soupe!”, or ‘it is in old pots that good soup is made’.

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Would that be something like this?  In re to the rounded bottom, is this something I could put over (low) direct heat on my gas stove, or would I still need to use a diffuser?

Just to chip in my two cents... I brought back something very similar to this from Morocco (Zagora in the south) and have used it regularly for 2 years now over my gas stove flame (no diffuser) with no problems whatsoever.

Admin: Edited to replace posted image from external server with link.

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That is a really nice tagine.

You are lucky that you can control the heat on your stove and not have to use a heat diffuser.

Please tell us some of the dishes you have made in it.


“C’est dans les vieux pots, qu’on fait la bonne soupe!”, or ‘it is in old pots that good soup is made’.

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