TEST KITCHEN - ProCook Stoneware Tagine

PUBLISHED: 00:00 24 June 2016

The ProCook (procook.co.uk) stoneware tagine in Moroccan blue and terracotta, £35

The ProCook (procook.co.uk) stoneware tagine in Moroccan blue and terracotta, £35

Archant

In the first of a new series in which we try out new gadgets, ingredients and kitchenalia, Jo Haywood test drives a tagine.

The ProCook (procook.co.uk) stoneware tagine in Moroccan blue and terracotta, £35The ProCook (procook.co.uk) stoneware tagine in Moroccan blue and terracotta, £35

Next time you happen to find yourself in Morocco, head to the beautiful little northern town of Chefchaouen, where residents can paint their house whatever colour they like – as long as it’s blue.

This artsy, craftsy little place is an absolute delight, with all narrow, winding roads leading to the bustling Plaza Uta el-Hammam kasbah. But it’s the town’s vivid signature colour that will stick with you longest, especially if you decide to add a distinctive swipe of Moroccan blue to your own home when you get back from your travels.

If a full-blown blue kitchen is too much for your sensitive palette, you could add a subtler North African flavour with a simple tagine, the iconic clay or ceramic chimney-topped pot that knocks out delicious slow-cooked stews with very little effort needed.

You can get them in a wide range of colours and sizes and at price points to suit all pockets. Le Creuset, for instance, sells a cast iron version for £175, while Lakeland sells striped traditional tagines for between £22 and £30. For testing purposes, I gave a mid-range £35 ProCook tagine in Moroccan blue and terracotta a whirl.

Butterbeans, lamb, cumin, ginger, garlic, wine and caramelised onion – everything you need for a delicious tagineButterbeans, lamb, cumin, ginger, garlic, wine and caramelised onion – everything you need for a delicious tagine

It’s made from durable enamel-glazed stoneware that’s microwave, dishwasher and oven safe up to 260C. The accompanying bumph also claims that ‘during cooking, the conical lid ensures steam re-condenses back into the food for a tender and moist result every time’.

Some manufactures suggest seasoning your tagine before you start, particularly if it’s an authentic clay or glazed ceramic Moroccan pot. This involves soaking it overnight, rubbing it with olive oil and heating and cooling it in an oven to strengthen the structure and, if unglazed, remove any raw clay taste.

I didn’t season mine, partly because I didn’t research the process until after the fact (oops) but mainly because it wasn’t necessary as the tagine was purpose-made to withstand heat and, in the end, came out of the oven as pristine as it went it.

My test recipe was a simple lamb tagine – the word refers to both the pot and the resulting dish – with caramelised onions, ginger, cumin and garlic providing a background hum of sweetness and heat.

After two hours in the oven, the end result was a deeply-flavoured, darkly-hued stew that was beautifully moist and moreish (or Moorish, if we’re sticking rigidly with the North African theme).

The tagine itself was easy to clean – although there was very little left to scrub once my permanently famished family were let loose on it – and, now it’s back on the shelf, makes a colourful addition to the kitchen.

Tagine titbits

:: Be aware that some tagines are sold as decorative serving plates and are not meant for cooking with.

:: Unglazed clay tagines are favoured by many cooks for the unique earthy nuance they impart to dishes.

:: Tagines are traditionally placed over large bricks of charcoal that stay hot for hours. Modern versions are fine in a low oven or on the hob.

:: Moroccan tagines are typically spiked with spices, nuts and dried fruits – dates and apricots are particular favourites – to give a distinct sweet and spicy profile.

:: A minimal amount of liquid (stock or wine, whatever floats your boat) is used in cooking as the cone-shaped lid traps steam and returns the condensed, flavoursome liquid back into the stew.

:: For more information about Morocco, it’s culture and food, visit muchmorocco.com.

Ingredients

1kg lamb, cubed

bottle of red wine (if a glass is missing, no big deal)

2tsp ground ginger

2tsp cumin

100g of caramelised onion (from a jar is fine)

head of garlic, broken into cloves and peeled

tin of butter beans (or whatever beans you fancy)

Method

:: Heat your oven to around 150C or gas 2.

:: Put all the ingredients in your tagine (or casserole if that’s the way you roll). If you put your wine in last, it’s a lot easier to stir.

:: Bring to the boil on the hob, pop on the lid and transfer to the oven.

:: Leave it for two hours (or thereabouts) and when the lamb is meltingly tender and you can’t stand the delicious aromas wafting from your oven a moment longer without dipping a hunk of crusty bread in, it’s done.

:: We had ours with mash and carrots, but it’s just as good with almond-studded couscous, tagliatelle or the aforementioned hunk of crusty bread.

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