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The Tagine – thousands of years of culinary heritage

North African nomads known as the Berber have been using the Tagine for thousands of years. Meat and vegetables are cooked particularly gently in these traditional earthenware pots. Slow braising at a low temperature ensures the contents of the pot are succulent and full of flavour, whilst still staying firm.

The principle is simple

The round, flat earthenware pot has a cone-shaped lid, with a small recess at the very top. Before cooking, cold water is poured into this curvature. As the pot slowly heats up, the steam rises and the cold water makes it cool down. The steam then condenses and runs back down the insides of the lid and down into the cooking pot. Heat is distributed evenly throughout the tagine, since earthenware retains the heat well. This ensures that the food is cooked slowly and gently in its own juices. And so the nutrients, aroma and texture of the ingredients are maintained.

Preparation of Middle Eastern delicacies

The tagine is ideal for preparing Middle Eastern stews like lamb with apricots and pistachios or chicken with squash and couscous. These dishes don't take much time to prepare. The vegetables and fruit just need to be peeled and chopped. You can start by gently frying the fish or meat in oil and then layer up the other ingredients on top. The cooking process generally takes place from the inside to the outside. Potatoes and hard vegetables should go in the middle of the pot as this is where it gets the hottest. Foods that cook more quickly, such as tomatoes, figs, dates and nuts are best arranged around the edge of the dish. You may also need to add some more water. And of course Eastern spices such as cumin, saffron and turmeric should not be forgotten. Depending on the ingredients and heat setting you use, the dish will need to stew for anything between half an hour and several hours. Shortly before serving, you can add coconut milk or sauces to the pot according to the recipe you are using.

Modern pots for all types of stoves

Traditional clay tagines are “seasoned” before use to give them a natural protective layer. Afterwards, the pot only needs to be watered before each use. Traditionally, tagines were cooked over an open fire. Modern cooking pots can, however, be used on all types of stove and in the oven. The dish is eaten straight out of the traditional cookware.

 

Source: Heike Kreutz, www.bzfe.de