Tagine, long, slow cooking in a special clay pot, may be one of the oldest cooking methods in the world. It is this narrow, but rich area of cooking that Pat Crocker explores with 150 Best Tagine Recipes.
Primarily from North African countries and particularly associated the Morocco, tagine dishes, tend to be long on vegetables, whole grains, and aromatic spices and shorter on proteins like meat, poultry, and fish. The long, low-temperature cooking and the up-swept lid of the tagine pot allows food to become tender and develop intense flavors.
Published by Robert Rose, this book is one of a several “numbered” cookbooks the publisher produces (RFT recently reviewed 300 Best Taco Recipes) and they all share something all good cookbooks should have – well written recipes that are easy to read and understand. The recipes in 150 Best Tagine Recipes are laid out in a one-third, two-thirds format with the left-hand third of the page reserved for yield, commentary, tips, and recipe variations and the right-hand two thirds for the list of ingredients and numbered directions. The cook can readily glance at the ingredient list and know exactly what he or she needs for the dish. Recipes are either short enough to fit two to a page or one per page. None of them slop over onto two or more pages, which means you won’t be thumbing through the book as you cook. Another convenience is that the author gives quantities in both English and metric measurements, but listed on separate sides of the ingredient list. All of this thoughtful layout makes the recipes a joy to read and easily understandable.
One of the things I love about this cookbook is that the author gives the reader a good basic introduction to tagine cooking, including a discussion of traditional and modern day tagine vessels, a listing of modern tagine makers and their product’s characteristics, and a thorough discussion of North African spices and spice blends. Crocker is a good writer and she weaves evocative images about North African culture and food (and makes this reviewer want to hop on a plane and experience it all for myself!). It’s a great education and makes the book approachable, even to someone who is relatively new to tagine cooking.
Crocker breaks her tagine dishes into poultry, lamb, beef, fish and seafood, and vegetables. They include recipes like Cinnamon Chicken Tagine with Peaches, Gingered Beef Tagine with Tomato Sauce, and Pacific Halibut, Fennel, and Black Olives. In addition, the author offers sections for dips, souk (market) food, and sauces; sides and salads; and a brief section on beverages and sweets. With 150 Best Tagine Recipes, you’ll be able to plan and execute an entire Moroccan feast.
My one disappointment with this cookbook comes with the photos. I’m a visual cook and love cookbooks that are resplendent with terrific food photos. Of course, printing those photos is often prohibitively expensive. The publisher has chosen to offer 14 luscious-looking photos plugged into the center of the book. I’d have much preferred more photos and, if that’s not possible, at least put the photos next to their respective recipes.
However, my complaint is a minor one. 150 Best Tagine Recipes is still one terrific cookbook. It’s well-indexed and comes with a helpful section on sourcing cooking tools and ingredients. If you or someone you know is an adventurous cook with a love for deeply-flavored foods, you’ll love 150 Best Tagine Recipes. – BH