So just what is a tagine?
Tagine is a spicy Moroccan dish, which is named after the special pot in which it's cooked.
The traditional tagine pot is made from heavy clay and sometimes glazed like my spectacularly orange beauty. It consists of two parts - a base unit that is flat and circular with low sides, and a large cone or dome-shaped cover that rests inside just the base during cooking. The domed cover is designed to ensure that all the condensed flavour returns to the bottom of the pot, making the dish flavoursome and tender.
I’ve wanted one for years but could never quite justify the expense given that we have pots and pans and slow cookers and clay ovens galore. So imagine my surprise (I love that phrase) when I wandered down an aisle in Sainsbury’s a couple of weeks ago and saw one for a tenner. Half price! A good big one! And in orange! Even at full price it was a bargain, so I picked it up, put it back, almost bought it, then didn’t - but in the end Gaynor insisted (as I’d hoped) and the not so little orange beauty was mine.
Yesterday I used it for the first time. I waited so that I could do my research. Basically a tagine is a stew and you can put just about anything in it. I consulted our ridiculously extensive library of cookery books and the web and eventually amalgamated Mary Berry, Anthony Worrall Thompson, a Moroccan cuisine website, and my own instinctive chef’s ability to make a recipe all of my own.
This is what I did.
I took a pinch of every exotic spice I could find in the cupboard – paprika, cumin, ginger, cardamom, turmeric, chilli, cinnamon, nutmeg, cayenne - a teaspoon of some stuff called Egyptian Dukkah which had been hiding at the back of the cupboard unopened for years, a big spoonful of honey, some vegetable oil, and simply mixed them all together to make a marinade.
Then I got some quite cheap stewing lamb, removed the fat and bone with my very sharp knife, cut into chunks and placed it in my bowl of marinade. I stirred it around, covered in a poly bag and chucked it in the fridge overnight. When I took it out of the fridge it was beautifully dark, aromatic, and marinated to perfection so I fried it in some oil (I was tempted to use chilli oil but didn’t) on a high heat until brown and then dumped it into the base of my tagine.
On top of this I added: a chopped clove of garlic, a chopped red onion, and two chopped shallots which I’d already fried in oil until transparent. Then a roughly chopped carrot, some quartered dried apricots (soaked overnight), some flaked almonds, a tablespoon of honey, some freshly sliced ginger, a bunch of roughly chopped coriander, a small tin of plum tomatoes (chopped), half a tin of chick peas, three quarters of a pint of lamb stock (Knorr) and a big pinch of salt.
Then I slapped it in the oven for thirty minutes at 180 degrees, and reduced the heat to 120 degrees for a further two hours. About forty minutes from the end of the cooking time I removed it from the oven and added some rustically cut sweet potatoes.
I served it with boiled rice and pitta bread, but you could use couscous if you prefer.
It was a real hit. Even Gaynor who is highly critical of my cooking (she thinks that fives years at college learning to be a bit of a cook makes you a chef. No, don't worry, it's okay - she never reads my blog, it's just another thing she's highly critical of) said it was delicious and I quote ‘the best thing I’ve ever cooked’.
Dead easy. Go on, get a pot and begin to tagine the tagine.