Traditionally, the tagine is made from heavy clay and needs curing by soaking in water before first use - see: iTagine, the tops often decorated and glazed. Moden tagines often feature a cast iron base.
The shape of the lid is designed so as to return cooking steam back to the base of the dish and the weight keeping the dish sealed. Think of the tagine as an ancient pressure cooker.
Tagines combine meat, spices, vegetables, fruit and herb garnishes in a slow-simmering over the coals of an open fire ... or the cooker hob in our case. Cooked, the dish should be a deep, complex and warming meal brough to the table in the base, the lid removed and the heady, steamy aroma enjoyed as a precursor to the meal eaten from the base itself, or spooned over couscous on an individual plate.
Don your Fez, we're off to Casablanca ...
First, the couscous. Again, of Berber origin (Seksu, meaning well rolled, formed and rounded), couscous is made from millet so not a lot of use to paleo people. One obvious substitution is cauliflower couscous, finely grated and slightly dried in an oven before warming through in a dry frying pan.
So, to the tagine itself. Think your ingredients through - the dish should be dressed up and pretty to look at.
Begin with browning any meat and placing in the tagine.
Next, make the spicy sauce - onions and tomatoes as the base, spiced with coriander, cumin, cayenne pepper, maybe cinnamon and some salt. Add in any other vegetables that will form the sauce. Pour over the meat in the tagine.
Now it gets fun! Slice, dice or form any other ingredients - slices of carrot or courgette, cubes of aubergine, round prunes, olives, slices of preserved lemons, as examples. Arrange in the dish in a pattern - your imagination should go wild. Garnish with chopped or sliced chillis, herbs and maybe some pickled or preserved items.
Put the lid on and place on the hob at a high heat until it comes up to heat, then turn right down and leave it sit for a couple of hours.
Bring to the table on a heavy wooden board, couscous in a bowl.
Play it again, Sam!