Meaning of the word tagine (also spelled tadjines,tajine, tajeen)
The question of what exactly tagine means seems to come up often The stock answers are that it is an Algerian or Moroccan cooking vessel of Berber origin with a conical lid and the name of dishes cooked in such a vessel or a thick Tunisian omelette.
From Medieval Arab Cookery: Essays and Translations by Maxime Rodinson, A.J. Arberry and Charles Perry, “This book distinguishes between qalaya, fried in a pan called miqla and mutajjanat, fried in a pan called tajin (from the Greek tagenos, teganos*).”
TAGINE POTS AND PANS
In Algeria the word tagine (tajine, tajin, tadjine, etc…) still refers to pans. Bread pans, frying pans, pans with conical lids, pans without lids, pans with flat lids, baking pans, pans of different depths, clay pans, copper pans and cast iron pans. Tagine also refers to pots like tandjiyas (tangias) and couchas.
TAGINE DISHES COOKED IN POTS AND PANS CALLED TAGINES
Dishes that are cooked in pans and pots that are called tagines usually have a qualifier. Like chicken and apricot tagine, bread tagine (for bread cooked in a comal like pan or a skillet), tagine with eggs, tagine with lamb and prunes, tagine with chicken and preserved blood orange, and tagine warka or tagine malsouka (also called a pastilla or torta).
TAGINES THAT ARE MADE IN COOKWARE NOT CALLED TAGINES
Soups and stews cooked in a bottom tier of a couscousier are also called tagines (or NOT). In some cases meat or poultry dishes steamed in the top tier of a couscousier are called tagines.
Occasionally I read an article comparing moisture loss between handmade clay tagines, commercially produced enamel coated tagines and casserole pots. The conclusions vary as to whether or not the magical conical lid does indeed help retain moisture better. The problem with many of these articles is that although the writers comment on lids that don’t fit well they don’t know enough about clay tagine cooking to know that a simple paste of flour and water is used to seal ill fitting lids.
The writers simply don’t know enough about what a tagine vessel is or rather what they are. A clay tagine is not one type of vessel with a conical lid. And they’re not all cooked on top of a brazier. Some are cooked in a taboona (oven) or buried in hot ashes. Tagines cooked on a brazier don’t all have conical lids either. One method uses a flat lid on top of which hot coals are place to simulate oven cooking with heat from all sides.
The most commonly known type of tagine is like the one I prepared for the Tagine Dreams article by Charles Perry. The article includes a recipe for my lambshank tagine. My recipe for Chicken Tagine with Apricots and Spiced Nuts for Gourmet magazine is available online at Epicurious.
KCRW Good Food Blog: The Elegant Tagine
Yesterday Evan and I ventured to Pasadena for a tagine cooking and tasting demo performed by Chef Farid Zadi, the Dean of the new Ecole de Cuisine Pasadena which will formally debut in October of this year. Zadi, born in Lyon, France to Algerian parents, marries the flavors of North Africa with the precision of Escoffier.
– Farid Zadi