Spelled both tajine and tagine, this earthenware pot originating in North Africa is a delightful way to cook a meal for two to four people. The best part about it is that you can cook and serve your main course in one dish. It’s both attractive and interesting to bring the tagine right to the table for serving. The dishes made in these pots are also called “tagines”.
Original tagines were made of natural clay and you can still find those. Mine, however, (from Le Creuset) has a cast iron base and a ceramic top – making it both attractive and practical. You can use it to cook your dish either on the stop top, in the oven and even inside a closed outside grill.
Basically, with a tagine, you are braising your food – cooking it slowly in a little liquid. The special shape of the top captures the steam and keeps your dish very moist and delicious.
Here’s a recipe that makes an easy, hot dish for a cold winter evening! It definitely qualifies as healthy comfort food.
2-1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into large bite-sized pieces
3 Tablespoons olive oil, 1 Tablespoon butter, 1 clove garlic (or 1 teaspoon ground garlic)
1 small onion, chopped – 1 cup sliced mushrooms (I like to use button or shitake)
1/3 cup cooking sherry or white wine, 1/3 cup chicken stock
1 Tablespoon ground ginger, ½ teaspoon turmeric, 1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup black olives, pitted and cut in half
¼ cup flat leafed parsley, chopped tiny
¼ cup cilantro leaves, chopped tiny
- Place the oil and butter in the tagine base on a burner. Heat until the butter is melted. Add the onion and cook just until it’s soft. Add the mushrooms and cook until they are soft. Then push this mixture to the side, add the chicken pieces and brown them on all sides. Then mix it all up together.
- Add the sherry or wine, chicken stock and spices. Cover and cook on low heat for about 20 minutes.
- Mix in the olives, parsley and cilantro and serve over couscous.
Couscous are little pearls of semolina (durum wheat – which is also used to make pasta). It’s simply mixed with water and sieved in order to form the little pieces. Israeli Couscous is a much larger form. I prefer it because it can look like white caviar on your plate. To me, it’s a more interesting preparation. Israeli Couscous was invented during a rice shortage in Israel when the Prime Minister (David Ben Gurion) asked a large food company to come up with an alternative that looked like rice but was actually a wheat product.
Making the Couscous is easy. Simply use one and ¼ cups of liquid (water or stock) to 1 cup of couscous. Bring the liquid to a boil. Add the couscous. Cover the saucepan, remove it from the heat and let it stand for about 4-5 minutes for regular couscous or 8-10 minutes for Israeli couscous. If you like, you can also add a little butter and salt for taste. You can do this while your tagine is cooking. Serve in a large bowl with a vegetable. Enjoy!