A tajine or tagine is a Maghrebi dish named after the earthenware pot in which it is cooked. The tagine dates back to Harun al-Rashid who was a ruler of the Early Muslim conquests. The earliest writings about the concept of cooking in a tajine appear in the famous Alf layla wa layla (One Thousand and One Nights), an Arabic story collection from the 9th century. The dish would have been already famous amongst the nomadic Bedouin people of the Arabian Peninsula, who added dried fruits like dates, apricots and plums to give it its unique taste. Today, the cooking-pot and its traditional broth is primarily prepared in the Middle East and North Africa.
The traditional tajine pottery, sometimes painted or glazed, consists of two parts: a circular base unit that is flat with low sides and a large cone- or dome-shaped cover that sits on the base during cooking. The cover is designed to return all condensation to the bottom. That process can be improved by adding cold water into the specially designed well at the top of the lid.
Tajine is traditionally cooked over hot charcoal leaving some space between the coals and the tajine pot to avoid having the temperature rise too quickly. Large bricks of charcoal are used, for their ability to stay hot for hours. Other methods are to use a tajine in a slow oven or on a gas or electric stove top, on the lowest heat necessary to keep the stew simmering gently. A diffuser, a circular utensil placed between the tajine and the flame, is used to evenly distribute the stove's heat.
Moroccan and Algerian tajine dishes are slow-cooked savory stews, typically made with sliced meat, poultry or fish together with vegetables or fruit. Spices, nuts, and dried fruits are also used. The sweet and sour combination is common in tajine dishes like lamb with dates and spices. Tajines are generally served with bread. Because the domed or cone-shaped lid of the tajine pot traps steam and returns the condensed liquid to the pot, a minimal amount of water is needed to cook meats and vegetables. This method of cooking is practical in areas where water supplies are limited or where public water is not yet available.