Tajine (or tagine) describes both the traditional conical clay dish used in Moroccan cooking, as well as the contents cooked within. The centerpiece of everyday dining, there are dozens of different preparations that vary by season and by region. The ingredients are generally simple: Seasonal vegetables or fruit, some type of meat if available, spices, and a long, slow cooking time. Today, instead of traditional charcoal cooking techniques, many people have taken to pressure cookers to speed up the cooking time.
You may be treated to meat-heavy dishes when visiting restaurants, but in home cooking, meat is a smaller portion -- the remainder of the dish is made up of vegetables and mrqa, the thick broth that forms when the tajine is cooked down. Tajines are meant to be shared and eaten with bread, not a fork and knife. They’re also not eaten with couscous on the side. Couscous and tajine are two separate dishes.
Because of the seasonal nature of cooking in Morocco, you’ll find that menus change regularly. There are also many tajines that rarely find their way to restaurant menus and are reserved for the home. To try some of these, it’s best to stay in a riad and ask the host if they can prepare one for you. Some of these specialty tajines include rabbit tajine, goat meat with dried prunes or apricots, eel with raisins and onions, or djej m’hammer, chicken with spices roasted directly under the oven heat to create a crispy exterior.
Toubkal National Park
At this mountain lodge just under two hours from Marrakech, you’ll find Berber tajine, a lamb or beef version slow cooked over charcoal and dotted with vegetables and olives. The meat emerges pull-apart tender, and served with local tafarnout bread, a rustic flatbread used to mop up the deeply flavored sauce.
You can always expect fresh, seasonal flavors at this highly-regarded but tiny restaurant in the striking, blue-walled city of Chefchaouen. Beldi Bab Ssour is known for its homey, family-style dishes -- go with the tajine of that day is and you won’t be disappointed.
On the rue Tangier in this port city off the Atlantic, you’ll find this unassuming spot serving amazing tajines. Choose from what they’ve made for the day or you can order whatever you’d like -- be prepared to wait a few hours. Seems silly to wait, though, when the classic chicken, preserved lemon and olive tajine is almost always available, though you can also opt for a fish tajine with the catch of the day.