Wednesday, October 13, 2010

How to Use & Care for a Tagine

The Arabic Food Recipes kitchen (The Home of Delicious Arabic Food Recipes) invites you to read about How to Use & Care for a Tagine. Enjoy cooking tasty Arabic food and learn How to Use & Care for a Tagine. 

What is a tagine?

Tagine is the Moroccan word that refers to both the unique glazed earthenware vessel with a distinctive conical lid and also the food prepared in it.

Traditionally used by nomads as portable ovens over charcoal braziers for making stews, usually containing meat, the tagine is used for both cooking and serving, but care should be taken to protect your table when using the tagine as a serving dish as the base will be very hot. 

The basics of using a tagine

1. Learn the history and special features of the tajine. Terra-cotta cooking vessels with an unusual conical lid, tagines are used by the nomadic Berber of Morocco and North Africa. Food cooked in a tagine, ordinarily stews containing lamb, chicken or fish, is also called tagine. The tagine cooks with little fluid, water being scare for desert nomads. There are both cooking and serving versions of the tagine. The cooking tagine is traditionally heated by charcoal, although modern versions, some with cast iron bottoms, are marketed for Western kitchens. Traditional, unglazed terra-cotta tagines can be heated over a diffused gas flame; they should be washed by hand in soapy warm water. Unglazed tagines come in many sizes; after frequent use they give the food an earthy taste highly prized by many in North Africa. A glazed tagine can be heated in the oven and washed in a dishwasher. The colorfully decorated, glazed serving tagines are not intended for cooking.

2. Understand how a tajine cooks food. Circulating steam condenses inside the conical lid of a tagine. Simmering food slowly in circulating steam, sometimes for hours, helps keep it from drying out and infuses it with oils and spices. Cheap cuts of meat are made tender by the lengthy simmering. Some recipes call for the meat to be browned first.

3. Season your tajine for its first use. To prepare a new unglazed tagine, begin by soaking it in water for one to two hours. Then rub olive oil around the base and inside the lid. Put the tagine in a cold oven and heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. After two hours take the tagine out of the oven. Let it cool. Wash it with warm soapy water. Coat the inside with olive oil before you store it.

4 Find tagine recipes: Moroccan Lamb Tagine with Honey and Apricots, Fast Chicken Tagine, Lamb Tagine with Artichokes & Lemon.

5 Cook your food in a tajine. Do not put a tagine over high heat; it can crack. Layer your ingredients.

Begin with the meat, onions, oil and seasonings. Meat is not ordinarily browned before cooking, instead it is cooked with onions until the onions are tender but now browned. This allows seasonings to better penetrate the meat.

Add water or stock. Add vegetables after the meat is tender and well seasoned. The food is done when the liquid is reduced and both the meat and vegetables are tender.
Cooking in a tajine is a form of slow cooking. How long you cook a dish depends on what kind of meat you use. Tough cuts of goat take the longest. How long you cook lamb or beef depends on the cut of meat. Chicken takes less time. Fish cooks fastest of all.
Cooking times will range from 45 minutes to two and a half hours, depending on the kind of meat and the cut. A loin cut will cook faster than one from the flank or rump. Recipes usually call for cooking times of an hour to an hour and a half. Add vegetables with half hour or less of cooking time remaining, depending on the vegetables and how soft you want them. 

How to Clean & Care for a Tagine

Always cool the tagine for a short time before soaking or washing in hot soapy water. Do NOT PLUNGE the tagine, while hot, into cold water as thermal shock damage to the enamel may occur.

Wipe over the whole lid with a hot soapy cloth paying particular attention to the unglazed rim – this should be cleaned after each use to prevent any build up of grease.

Nylon or other soft abrasive pads and brushes can be used to remove stubborn residues. DO NOT USE metallic pads or harsh abrasive cleaning agents, such as bleach, as it will damage the enamel.

If there are sever food residues, soak the tagine in hot water for 15-20 minutes, then wash in the usual way. Repeat if needed.

Always dry the lid and based thoroughly. Lay the lid on it’s side for a short while to ensure the rim is completely dry, Never store them away still damp. Store in a dry cupboard or airy space with the lid in an upright position to avoid damage.

Black enamel cooking surfaces will, over time, produce a patina (a brownish film). Do NOT attempt to clean this off as it enhances the cooking performance and food release from the surface.

Both the base and lid are dishwasher safe. Always allow the cycle to complete before opening the door. An incomplete cycle retains moisture in the machine and over time damage may occur to the surface, particularly if the enamel is damaged.

Le Creuset Tagines & Emile Henry Tagines

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