Cooking in Clay: Tajines

Saffron, apricots, cilantro, almonds, cinnamon, ginger, chicken, cumin, olives, garlic, chick peas, limes, and couscous, toasted… a sampling of ingredients traditionally used in dishes cooked in tajines.  These vessels have been in use for centuries in Morocco and a tajine looks like a casserole dish with a hat. A clever and practical design, the knob on the top of the lid stays cool(er), the dish heats evenly, and the vessel can be used in an oven or stove top. Ingredients are steamed slowly, at a fairly low temperature and the results are stewy concoctions with succulent flavors and heavenly scents. All condensation flows to the  base of the pot as ingredients cook and flavors meld. They may have slightly different shapes and come in different sizes and colors, but all tajines have certain things in common. Thick clay walls. Tall lid, usually conical. Wide, low base with curved sides.

We watched Casablanca last night and it put me in the mood to write this article. Marrakesh, Casablanca, spices, tajines, Morocco…so exotic! In addition, I think my clay work is starting to take a turn. In high school, I didn’t appreciate utilitarian pieces… in college, I made quite a few serviceable pieces, then concentrated on hand-building. To be frank, I was also a bit of a snob, as in “what, me make something useful?” I’m coming down to earth; however, am becoming more grounded, and the idea of making things that are useful is becoming more attractive. Since I love to cook, it makes sense that I would try to combine the two. So, take a look at these tajines from Morocco and when I’ve made one or two I’ll post pics of them and see what you think. I’ll let you know how they worked out and post my recipes. Cheers! (Thank you to Wikimedia Commons for these photos.)

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About Jan

I have a background in ceramics, graphic design and journalism.
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