Among the many ethnic foods out there, perhaps my favorite is Middle Eastern. Why? Well, the answer is very simple: It is a delight to the palate as well as the nostrils. The greatest quality of Middle Eastern food is that it is, well, for lack of a better term, aromatic. The multitude as well as the combination of spices and ingredients used to prepare Middle Eastern dishes produces deep, complex favors that are a treat to even the most discriminating appetites.
Let’s take for example, the tagine. Although North African in origin- Moroccan to be precise the tagine is also known throughout the Middle East in various forms. It is basically a stew of either chicken, lamb, fish or vegetables. The name tagine actually comes from the clay cooking vessel where the dish is prepared. The use of ceramics in Moroccan cooking is probably of Roman influence. Romans likely brought ceramics to the area during their rule of Roman Africa starting in 146 BC after the Third Punic War.
One of the reasons why a tagine dish tastes so wonderfully delicious, is because it is slow cooked, thus giving all the ingredients time to infuse their wonderful flavors on the meats. The slow cooking process also tenderizes the meats giving them that melt in your mouth texture which is so tantalizing to the palate.
A tagine’s sweet and savory combination of ingredients-ginger, cinnamon, cumin, pepper, onions, honey, apricots when put together are akin to a well-orchestrated concerto, where you are the maestro and the ingredients are the notes working together to produce a masterful piece.
Do not let the quantity of ingredients intimidate you. This is a dish of relative ease to prepare. It does however take time and a pinch of patience, but the results will blow you away. If you do not have a tagine, don’t worry. You can still create this delicious dish using a large heavy skillet. The tagine can be eaten alone or served over couscous. Try it for your next gathering; your guests will be talking about it for a very long time.
If you want to try some tagine recipes I have a few for you to checkout. If you don’t have a tagine dish you can easily use a slow cooker. This Moroccan chicken tagine recipe is a very traditional dish and has some really exotic flavors you will love! Another variation on this dish is Moroccan saffron chicken with a wonderful blend of spices and so easy to make.