Kofta is a meatball or meatloaf. In the simplest form, koftas consist of balls of minced or ground meat—usually beef or lamb—mixed with spices and/or onions.
They are often shaped into meatballs which are prepared with a mixture of ground meat, rice and leeks, and served dry. Koftas are served with a spiced gravy, as dry versions are considered to be kebabs.
The meat is often mixed with other ingredients such as rice, bulgur, vegetables, or eggs to form a smooth paste. Koftas are sometimes made with fish or vegetables rather than red meat. They can be grilled, fried, steamed, poached, baked or marinated, and may be served with a rich spicy sauce.
A tajine or tagine is a dish that is named after the special earthenware pot in which it is cooked. The traditional tajine pot is formed entirely of a heavy clay, which is sometimes painted or glazed. It consists of two parts: a base unit that is flat and circular with low sides and a large cone- or dome-shaped cover that sits on the base during cooking. The cover is designed to promote the return of all condensation to the bottom. With the cover removed, the base can be taken to the table for serving.
The bottom is a wide, circular shallow dish used for both cooking and serving, while the top of the tagine is distinctively shaped into a rounded dome or cone.
The word „tagine“ also refers to the succulent dish which is slow-cooked inside the cooking vessel. Typically, a tagine is a rich stew of meat, chicken, or fish, and most often includes vegetables or fruit. Vegetables can also be cooked alone.
Unglazed clay tagines are favored by some for the unique earthy nuance they impart to dishes. Like their glazed counterparts, they come in all sizes. The smallest might hold enough food for one or two people, while the largest can hold a meal for eight people or more.
Tagines are primarily used to slow-cook savory stews and vegetable dishes. Because the domed or cone-shaped lid of the tagine traps steam and returns the condensed liquid to the pot, a minimal amount of water is needed to cook meats and vegetables to buttery-tenderness. This method of cooking is very practical in areas where water supplies are limited or where public water is not yet available.
The traditional method of cooking with a tagine is to place the tagine over coals. Large bricks of charcoal are purchased specifically for their ability to stay hot for hours. Smaller pieces of charcoal are reserved for cooking brochettes (Barbecue)and other grilled meats.
You can try cooking a tagine over charcoal (be sure to leave adequate space between the coals and the tagine or the temperature will be too high), but it’s okay to use a tagine in a slow oven or place it on a gas or electric stove top. Use the lowest heat necessary to keep the stew simmering gently. A diffuser – a circular piece of aluminum placed between the tagine and burner – is highly recommended to buffer and more evenly distribute the stove’s heat.
Ma’amoul are small shortbread pastries filled with dates, pistachios or walnuts (or occasionally almonds, figs, or other fillings). They may be in the shape of balls or of domed or flattened cookies. They can either be decorated by hand or be made in special wooden moulds.
Many households keep a stock of them all year round, but they are particularly used on religious festivals.
There is a more elaborate version known as karabij, used on special occasions. In this, nut-filled ma’amoul balls are piled in a pyramid and served with a white cream called naatiffe made from egg whites, sugar syrup and soapwort.