How to Make a Ceramic Tajine

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Tajine is a word used interchangeably to describe both a style of Moroccan cooking and the type of casserole-style dish used in that style of cooking. According to the Encyclopedia of Kitchen History, the tajine "consists of a shallow footed terra cotta bowl covered by a perforated lid, which remains in place over hours of slow dry heating" (see references 1). The lid of a tajine is similar to a steep funnel or vase, while the base of a tajine resembles a ceramic pie plate. The lid must fit snugly inside the base to function properly.

Things You'll Need

  • Clay
  • Water
  • Sponge
  • Clay trim tool
  • Clay wire tool
  • Caliper ruler
  • Pottery wheel
  • Glazes
  • Kiln

Tagine Lid

  • Wedge the clay to remove air bubbles. To wedge, hold the clay in both hands and roll it in a half-circle against a hard surface (like a table). The process is similar to kneading bread dough (see references 2).

  • Center about 2 pounds of the wedged clay on the pottery wheel with both hands. Hold a damp sponge in one hand while you center to keep the surface of the clay moist (see references 2). Lindsey Tomlinson-Peck, owner of The Mudroom Pottery Studio, says "You should always keep a thin layer of water between your hands and the clay to keep the clay moving smoothly." (see references 2).

  • Press your thumbs into the centered clay to create depth, then place one hand on the inside and one on the outside of the vessel to build up the sides to the height you want (at least 8 inches tall) by pulling your hands or fingertips upward against the clay while it spins on the wheel (see references 2).

  • Taper the bottom of the pot inward by pressing your outside hand harder against your inside hand. In other words, use the side of your outside hand to press firmly against the base of the pot while your other hand is on the inside to support the force of your pushing hand (see references 2 and 3). The tapered part, or the tajine chimney, should be at least 2 inches tall.

  • Taper the top of the vessel outward by tipping your outside hand at a 30 degree angle from the pot and dragging the pot outward. When creating taper, the outside hand controls the angle of the clay while the inside hand presses the clay in that direction.

  • Use a trim tool along the bottom of the vessel to trim off excess clay along the sides of the tajine while the wheel is in motion (see references 3).

  • Use a wire tool to cut the vessel from the pottery wheel at the bottom. After it is removed from the wheel, use the same pottery wheel to trim about a 1/2 inch from the inward-tapered end of the vessel (the chimney) in order to open the tajine chimney flue. When finished, the tajine lid should resemble an elongated funnel (see references 2 and 3).

  • Use a caliper ruler to measure the diameter of the base of the tajine (the wider end of the tajine below the chimney) (see references 3).

Tagine Base

  • Remove about 1 pound of wedged clay and center it on the wheel using the same method for centering as you did with the lid.

  • Press your thumbs into the center of the mound of clay to create no more than a 2 or 3 inch depth.

  • Press your thumbs from the inside of the pot toward the outer rim with your palms cradling the outside of the pot on either side (see references 2 and 3). As the wheel spins, maintain this hand position while you pull your hands outward to create a shallow pot or a rimmed plate (see references 3). Measure with the caliper ruler frequently to ensure that the opening of your pot is no more than 1/2 inch wider than the outer rim of the lid, otherwise you will have to start the base process again.

  • Create a lip on the plate (similar to a pie plate) by pressing your thumbs and hands in the same position as the previous step, but this time starting about an inch higher than than the base of the pot (see references 3). Measure with a caliper tool to ensure that the inner rim of the base is the same width as the lid.

  • Glaze and fire both the lid and the base before attempting to use for cooking. The glaze must go on the inside of the base at least. It is up to you if you wish to glaze the outside of the base and lid as well.

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References

  • Photo Credit tagine image by hicham elahmadi from Fotolia.com
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