By Morris Lemire
What first drew me to tajine cooking was the spice mix. All my favourites were there: ginger, cumin, turmeric, saffron, cinnamon. It’s a long and rich list. Add to these spices, preserved lemons, dates, dried apricots, and rose water, and I was hooked.
Tajine is a traditional way of cooking that hasn’t changed significantly over the centuries. In Morocco, the source of this recipe, it still helps define Berber cultural identity. Basically, tajine is an ingenious one-pot stew requiring very little water. It’s well suited to dry countries and cooking over an opened fire – still done in rural areas. Charcoal braziers are used in urban courtyards.
Historically, tajine pots were made from clay. And while clay pots continue to be used, constant adaptation has lead to the practical cast iron base. I use a Le Creuset tajine because the metal bottom works well on my induction stove, as they do on electric and gas ranges. Thankfully, Le Creuset kept the conical hat, the classic tajine lid.
This is how it works. The conical shape of the lid conserves moisture by directing steam up the cooler sides of the cone, which then condenses and drips back into the pan. In Canada we hardly have to worry about having enough water to cook with, so why all the fuss over the pot?
Experience suggests that what is really saved along with the moisture is flavour. But, any style of heavy pot can be used, because it’s the spices that make the dish: spice and methodology. Unlike most stews, you don’t mix and stir everything together in the cooking pot. Instead try layering the ingredients.
When you are ready to give this wonderful cooking style a try, here is my recipe for Moroccan Tajine Chicken!