Tajines do not go over couscous! I haven’t been able to pinpoint why this irks me but I am constantly seeing American and other Western chefs guilty of pairing couscous with tajine. Now you all know I am one for innovation, adding something new and so if that’s what the dish is all about, rock on. But, at least from what I’ve seen they are trying to pass this off as the authentic way to do things. This might be the case in other Maghreb countries but I’ve never seen this in Morocco. I’ve lived there, I’ve vacationed there many many times, heck I’ve been living with a Moroccan for nearly 7 years now. Tajine over couscous is not traditional. It’s unheard of!
So let’s discuss.
Tajine (or tagine): This word has multiple meanings. First it’s the conical shaped cooking vessel that a meal is prepared it. The food cooked inside is also called a tajine. It can be any number of things but usually is some kind of meat and vegetables, slow cooked and seasoned. Savory and sweet flavors are often combined and you’ll see beef and prunes, chicken and olives, beef and tomatoes and many other combinations depending on where in the country you are.
Couscous: Most people recognize couscous immediately as a Moroccan food. You haven’t seen it too often here because MarocBaba doesn’t like it. This traditional dish is made from semolina (the same flour used to make pasta) and is rolled into very small balls. To prepare this dish a couscousiere is used. A couscousiere has two parts, the top has small holes to allow for steam to vent, and the bottom acts like a regular pot. The couscous is cooked in the top and the meat and/or vegetables and broth are cooked in the bottom. The couscous is steamed three times and the vegetables and meat cooked until very tender. To serve the couscous is heaped onto a large serving plate and then the contents of the pot arranged around the top of the couscous. Some of the sauce is poured on top as well. Generally small bowls with extra broth are present on the table for individuals to add as desired.
This is a couscousiere – notice that the seal between the lid and the steaming compartment has an additional barrier. This keeps steam from escaping and helps cook the couscous faster.
This is the end of my rant! There’s no reason you can’t put a tajine on top of couscous or serve it with couscous, it’s just not traditional. Bsshouraha!