The Tagine

Whilst reading through my previous blogs I seem to be a bit sniffy about tagines, commenting on how we were offered this dish over and over again. I feel I should put the matter into its proper context. Yes, we did have a lot of meals cooked in the tagine but, in the absence of bottled gas or mains electricity, an open fire was often the sole method of cooking.

The tagine was a clay pot with a conical lid and was traditionally used by the Berbers as an oven. Put the tagine on a bed of charcoal from an open fire and you could slow cook meat and vegetables, the dish being kept moist by the shape of the conical lid. Lamb, beef, camel, chicken or kofta (spicy meat balls) could be slow cooked with vegetables, herbs and spices. Depending on the recipe, preserved lemons, olives, prunes, almonds or couscous could be added. Berber omelette (our favourite) was a vegetable base with eggs added towards the end of cooking. Honest food and always served with home made bread.

When a meal was prepared for us at a rural camp site, a fire would be lit at the end of the afternoon and the tagines would placed in the embers to cook slowly for a couple of hours before being distributed to the campers. The tagine was always a welcome dish, home made and healthy; should it occasionally lack a bit of seasoning, we soon learnt to add a drop or two of pepper sauce when no-one was looking.