A typical dish in Morocco involves steam cooking a roast of carefully placed veggies with or without a meat base into a pyramidal shape in order of cooking time so that we achieve the perfect textures for each veggie in the tagine. This is all set in special clay earthenware for which the dish is aptly named, the Tagine. Common ingredients used in a tagine are Preserved Lemons and the best spice blends that the many merchants in the medinae offer, Raz el Hanout, the “top of the house” spice blend, is sprinkled onto the top of the tagine and permeates the dish throughout the steaming process as it slowly roasts over the coals.For more on Preserved Lemons check this out!
Any meat or veggie could be added or substituted to make a tagine, (as long as it fits in the tagine), its not important what, but, how to make and assemble the dish. See above as we want to achieve a pyramidal shape and build from the chicken base adding soft veggies on top and covering them with the carrot and potato on the outside to insulate while being exposed to more heat for a longer period of time.
Historically cooking with heat from a coal fire coming from below the meat bottom will cook faster than the veggies on top and in the center of the pile. With this logic lets get started;
1 onion peeled and sliced
1 chicken leg quarter seasoned with salt and pepper
1/2 potato cut into wedges
1 carrot cut longways into wedges
1/4 eggplant sliced in wedges
1/2 zucchini sliced in half longways
1 or 2 cloves of garlic to put around the base
1/4 Preserved Lemons, pulp sac removed
1/2 t. raz el hanout to sprinkle on top
1/2 t. Zanzabar to sprinkle on top
*Note that tagines are heat sensitive. It is wise to preheat your tagine and make sure it has been tempered before making food in it if its new. Put the tagine in the oven and heat it to about 325. If you plan on using a stove top set it to medium low to low setting and get it warming up while you prepare the veggies.
After the tagine is hot add our sliced onions and give them a stir, if you are using a stove top you can carmelize the onions, if not just make a base layer for the meat.
Season the meat and veggies first and then begin assembling the tagine with the chicken down on onions. Add the eggplant in zuchini in slices piled on the chicken base.
Place the potato and carrot wedges alternating around the eggplant-zucchini center
Sprinkle the raz el hanout and the zanzabar on top of the dish and around the sides
Place the preserved lemon on top of the pyramid, you can slice the lemon into a shredded flag or leave it intact, it will be fine either way, but you want to make it easy to remove before serving.
put the lid on the dish and place it back in the oven at 325 for 1 to 1.25 hours
If you are using a stove top then cook the tagine on low for about 40 to 50 minutes