I had not cooked a tagine before going to Morocco in 2018. That was somewhere that had been on my travel wish list for so long and it was wonderful to have finally made the trek over. We spent half our time on a personalised tour with the amazing Jaouad from Infinite Morocco tours and my only request to him was ‘no tourist food please’. And so, we were taken to back streets, alleys, souks and side of the road vendors who had tagines of all sorts bubbling away on little fires…. my love affair with tagine cooking had definitely commenced. The smell was the first thing that got me!
The word tagine is both the name of the dish and the earthenware pot in which it’s cooked. The Moroccan varieties (like those above) have round, shallow bases with conical lids. I’ve also come to find there are others such as the Egyptian tagine (like the one below). These are more like a traditional pot and have a slightly dome-shaped rather than cone-shaped lid.
Whilst the Moroccan tagine itself is beautiful (so is the Egyptian one!), the shape also serves a function. The conical lid traps in steam as the food cooks. The steam then circulates from the lid to the base allowing continuous and even heat to cook the meal inside. This also reduces and concentrates the liquid which caramelises the food. What you end up with as a result is a dish full of rich and exotic flavours. Honestly, I have no idea why I didn’t get onto these sooner.
The earliest mention of a tagine in history was in the 8th Century. It then appeared in Arabian Nights (a collection of Middle Eastern folk tales) in the 9th Century. Tagines were traditionally cooked over coal and still are however, they can also be made in the oven or on the stove top. They continue to be enjoyed in the Middle East and North Africa and are often savoury stews. They might contain things like meat, poultry or fish, vegetables, dried fruit, nuts and an array of spices. The ingredients used have changed over time given conquests and trade, and they continue to evolve today.
And so – after a little history, on to the recipe! If you prefer you could easily make this a vegetarian tagine. I tend to make vegetable varieties most but used chicken here because we had some that needed cooking. If removing the chicken, just add more vegetables of your choice but I would avoid watery varieties like zucchini. Enjoy!
Chicken and vegetable tagineDifficulty: Moderate
The rich and exotic flavours of this chicken and vegetable tagine will transport you straight to the Souks of Morocco.
400g chicken breast, cut into large chunks
1 large carrot, cut in half lengthways then chopped into large chunks
1/2 red capsicum, chopped into large chunks
1 red onion, sliced
150g pumpkin, peeled and chopped into large chunks
1 birds eye chilli, sliced (optional but gives it a nice little kick)
1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 can of diced tomatoes
2 tsp ras el hanout (Moroccan spice)
1 tsp cinnamon
2 large cloves garlic, crushed
250ml chicken stock
1 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Quinoa or rice to serve (ideally this is left over from another meal or cook fresh as the tagine is cooking)
- Place your tagine in a cold oven and heat to 180 degrees Celsius (360F)
- Add 1/2 Tbsp of olive oil to a large pot/saucepan, fry the chicken until browned (a couple of minutes) then remove from the pot. Set aside while you prepare the vegetables
- Heat the other 1/2 Tbsp of olive oil in the same pot then add the onion, chilli and garlic. Fry gently until onions are translucent
- Add in the ras el hanout and cinnamon then fry for 30 seconds. Add chickpeas and diced tomatoes and stir well to combine
- Add in the carrots, capsicum, pumpkin, sweet potato, reserved chicken and chicken stock then season with salt and pepper. Stir everything well to combine
- Remove warmed tagine from the oven and fill with the chicken and vegetable mix
- Cover the tagine with the lid and return to the oven. Cook for 60 to 80 minutes or until chicken and vegetables are thoroughly cooked. It will depend on how big your chicken and vegetable pieces are so it is worth checking at the hour mark
- Serve with your choice of sides. My favourites are quinoa and chermoula.
- If you do not have a tagine this recipe can easily be cooked in any casserole type pot with a lid. I was cooking mine in my Le Creuset pot before buying a beautiful Egyptian tagine from Pioik Bakery in Pyrmont.
If you’re after some other serving suggestions, I love this tagine with a big dollop of labneh on it too.