A tajine or tagine (Arabic: طاجين, tˁaːdʒiːn) is a type of dish found in the North African cuisines of Morocco,which is named after the special pot in which it is cooked. The traditional tajine pot is formed entirely of a heavy clay which is sometimes painted or glazed. It consists of two parts; a base unit which is flat and circular with low sides, and a large cone or dome-shaped cover that rests inside the base during cooking. The cover is so designed to promote the return of all condensation to the bottom. With the cover removed, the base can be taken to the table for serving.
Recently, European manufacturers have created tajines with heavy cast iron bottoms that can be fired on a stovetop at high heat. This permits browning meat and vegetables before cooking. While the similar Dutch oven and Sač spell (sach) (a cast iron pot with a tight cover) braises most efficiently in the oven, the tajine braises best on the stovetop.
Most tagines involve slow simmering of less-expensive meats. For example, the ideal cuts of lamb are the neck, shoulder or shank cooked until it is falling off the bone. Very few Moroccan tagines require initial browning; if there is to be browning it is invariably done after the lamb has been simmered and the flesh has become butter-tender and very moist. In order to accomplish this, the cooking liquid must contain some fat, which may be skimmed off later.
Moroccan tajines often combine lamb or chicken with a medley of ingredients or seasonings: olives, quinces, apples, pears, apricots, raisins, prunes, dates, nuts, with fresh or preserved lemons, with or without honey, with or without a complexity of spices. Traditional spices that are used to flavour tajines include ground cinnamon, saffron, ginger, turmeric, cumin, paprika, pepper, as well as the famous spice blend Ras el hanout. Some famous tajine dishes are mqualli or mshermel (both are pairings of chicken, olives and citrus fruits, though preparation methods differ), kefta (meatballs in an egg and tomato sauce), and mrouzia (lamb, raisins and almonds).
Other ingredients for a tajine include any product that braises well: fish, quail, pigeon, beef, root vegetables, legumes, even amber and aga wood. Modern recipes in the West include pot roasts, ossobuco, lamb shanks and turkey legs. Seasonings can be traditional Moroccan spices, French, Italian or suited to the dish.
What Tunisians refer to as a "tajine" is very different from the more well-known Moroccan dish. Tunisian tajine is more like an Italian frittata. First, a simple ragout of meat cut into very small pieces, cooked with onions and various spices, such as a blend of dried rosebuds and ground cinnamon known as bharat, or a robust combination of ground coriander and caraway seeds, is called tabil. Then something starchy is added to thicken the juices - common thickeners include cannellini beans, chickpeas, breadcrumbs or cubed potatoes. When the meat is tender, it is combined with whatever ingredient has been chosen to be the dominant flavoring. Examples include but are not limited to fresh parsley, dried mint, saffron, sundried tomatoes, cooked vegetables, or even stewed calf's brains. Next, the stew is enriched with cheese and eggs. Finally, this egg & stew is baked in a deep pie dish, either on the stove or in the oven until both top and bottom are crisply cooked and the eggs are just set. When the tajine is ready, it is turned out onto a plate and sliced into squares, accompanied by wedges of lemon. Tunisian tajines can be made with seafood, or as a completely vegetarian dish.
In rural parts of Tunisia, home cooks place a shallow earthenware dish over glowing olive wood, fill it, cover it with a flat earthen pan, and then pile hot coals on top. The resulting tajine is crusty on top and bottom, moist within, and is infused with a subtle smoky fragrance.