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Making a tagine

On Saturday nights I always make a major effort to cook a good dinner, and last night I pulled out the stops and cooked one of my favourites, a lamb and pomegranate tagine. I cooked it very slowly in a hand-thrown terracotta tagine which Chris and I bought several years ago at a foodie market in Ludlow. Over dinner, I was looking at the tagine pot, particularly the conical lid, and wondering how on earth the potter managed to make it without it collapsing under its own weight. I had a quick look on YouTube and found a couple of video clips of potters throwing tagines, and it looked to be just about within my ability range, so I decided that I’d have a go.

I had a session booked today at Eastnor Pottery, so I decided that I’d spend the time experimenting with throwing tagine bases and lids, to see if I could work out a way to do it. Normally, when I’m throwing pots, I try to make them as thin-walled as I can. But that’s not what’s needed for a tagine – they are often quite chunky so that they hold the heat well. So that means throwing with a larger lump of clay than I am used to. I made the lid “upside down”, with a narrow base with a hole all the way through it, spreading to a wide rim. But I found that the only way I could throw a conical lid without it collapsing under its own weight was to make the base much thicker than I want it to end up, which means I’ll have to turn away the excess clay next time.

I was aiming for a tagine considerably smaller than the one I have at home, which is a good size if I’m cooking for friends, but is rather too big for when it’s just me. But even so, the requirement for a fairly chunky base and a lid that could support its own weight when wet meant that I was throwing with 2kg lumps of clay. That’s about at the limit of what I can comfortably manipulate on the wheel-head, and it took a considerable amount of effort (a mixture of technique and just brute force) to centre the clay on the wheel. I threw three bases and four lids, using callipers to try to get them all to the same diameter, in the hope that they’ll fit together. Next time, I’ll tidy up the lids by shaving off the excess clay, and see whether I can find a base-and-lid combination that fits together comfortably.

{ 4 } Comments

  1. Hugh Webber | 25 February 2013 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    Hi Gillian,

    Good to hear you are finding ways to keep busy. I enjoy cooking tagine style too. One of my favourites is venison with dates. A nice lean meat that really responds well to slow cooking.


  2. Gillian | 26 February 2013 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    That sounds like a very interesting combination. I’ve never cooked venison, but I really like dates. Sounds worth a try – maybe when I have my new tagine……

  3. pauld | 27 February 2013 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    That sounds nice Hugh.

    Vensions one of my favourite meats.

  4. pauld | 27 February 2013 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    oh and theres a guy sells it and other game at cirencester market, cheaper than local butchers and far better than those supermarkets