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traditional moroccan lamb tagine recipe
Packed with tender meat, aromatic spices, sweet apricots and honey, this Moroccan lamb tagine recipe is inspired by the classic flavours of North African cooking. Served with toasted couscous and a nutty coriander sprinkle, it makes a delicious family meal. This is traditionally cooked in a special tagine dish, but a large casserole will work just as well.
- 1 lamb stock cube, crumbled
- 75g dried apricots, halved
- 1 tbsp clear honey
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 400g lamb neck fillet, trimmed and cut into 3cm pieces
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 red pepper, chopped into 1cm pieces
- 400g tin chickpeas
For the almond and coriander topping:
- 25g flaked almonds
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 30g pack coriander, finely chopped
For the couscous
- 150g couscous
- 1 chicken stock cube
- ½ tsp smoked paprika
- Preheat the oven to gas 4, 180°C, fan 160°C. Put the stock cube, apricots, honey and ground spices in a jug and cover with 300ml boiling water. Stir to combine.
- Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a high heat. Add half the lamb pieces and brown on all sides for 4-5 mins, then transfer to a large casserole dish (or tagine). Repeat with the remaining lamb.
- Keeping the pan on the heat, add the onion and cook for 8 mins until softened. Add the pepper and continue to fry for 2 mins. Transfer to the casserole dish with the lamb.
- Pour the stock mixture and the whole tin of chickpeas (including the liquid) into the casserole. Put on the heat, stir and then cover the dish and bring to the boil. Transfer to the oven and cook for 50 mins.
- Near the end of the cooking time, put a dry frying pan on a medium heat. Add the flaked almonds and toast for 2 mins until lightly golden, shaking the pan regularly. Tip into a small bowl and mix together with the crushed garlic and chopped coriander, set aside.
- Put the pan back on the heat and add the raw couscous. Toast for 2 mins, stirring the grains until lightly browned. Meanwhile, mix the chicken stock cube with 300ml boiling water.
- Remove the couscous from the heat and pour over the hot stock. Stir and cover, then leave for 5 mins. Fluff up the grains with a fork and stir through the smoked paprika.
- Serve the tagine with the couscous and sprinkle over the almonds, garlic and coriander mix.
Tip: Toasting the couscous before soaking adds an extra nutty flavour and gives it a lovely golden brown colour.
Perfect lamb tagine
Prep 10 min
Cook 2 hr 45 min
2 tbsp olive oil or butter, plus 1 knob extra for frying the almonds
1 large onion, peeled and finely sliced
600g boneless shoulder of mutton, goat or lamb (plus bones, if available), cut into roughly 4cm cubes
½ tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp saffron threads, soaked in 2 tbsp warm water
1 cinnamon stick
1 small bunch fresh coriander
100g dried apricots
2 tbsp flaked almonds
Melt the oil or butter in a shallow, heavy-based pan (or, indeed, a tagine) over a medium-low heat, then add the onion and cook until soft and golden. Scoop the onion out on to a plate, turn up the heat, then add the meat, in batches, if necessary, and brown well on all sides.
Stir the ground spices into the saffron water, then tip into the pot along with the cinnamon stick. Cook briefly until aromatic, then add most of the coriander, half the onion and 300ml cold water, scraping the bottom of the pan to dislodge any crusty bits of meat or spice. Add the bones, if you’ve got them, bring to a simmer, then cover tightly. Turn down the heat to very low and cook for about two hours, or until the meat is very tender.
Meanwhile, stone the dates, if necessary, and roughly chop with the apricots. Once the meat is soft, fish out the bones, coriander and cinnamon stick, if you can, then add the fruit to the pan and simmer, uncovered, for about 30 minutes more, until you have a thick sauce.
In a small frying pan, fry the almonds in hot the butter until toasted, then tip out to cool.
Stir the remaining onions into the tagine, and taste for seasoning. Garnish with the almonds and remaining coriander, roughly chopped, and serve with flatbreads or, if you prefer, hot, buttered couscous.
Moroccan Lamb Tagine
- 1 lb stewing lamb meat
- 1 large onion, diced
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tbs fresh ginger, grated
- Spice blend: 2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg, 2 tsp ground cumin, 2 tsp ground coriander, 1 tsp cayenne pepper, ½ tsp chili flakes, 2 tsp paprika, ½ tsp anise powder or 1 star anise, 1 tsp ground turmeric, ¼ tsp ground cardamom
- ½ cup tomato sauce
- 1 cup chickpeas
- ¼ cup prunes
- ¼ cup dried apricots
- 3 cups beef stock
- pinch of saffron
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1-2 whole dried chilies
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- ½ tbsp salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tbsp liquid honey
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- fresh coriander, chopped
- ¼ cup pistachios, chopped
- Naan or pita bread
- Season the lamb with salt and pepper.
- Heat a skillet with oil over high heat and brown the meat on all sides. Set aside.
- To the same skillet add the spice blend, onion, garlic and ginger. Cook until soft, about 3-4 minutes.
- Add back the meat, tomato sauce, chickpeas, prunes and apricots.
- Pour in the beef stock. Add saffron, cinnamon stick, dried chilies lemon zest and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and carefully transfer everything to the tagine dish (if using) or oven safe pot.
- Drizzle over with honey, cover and bake in the preheated 350 F oven for 90 minutes of until fork tender.
What is a tagine?
A tagine (or tajine) is a clay cooking pot that lends dishes cooked in it its name. A tagine has a circular base and a dome-shaped cover that sits over the base.
Tagine dishes are slow-cooked stews made with meat, fish or vegetables, usually combining savoury and sweet elements, often with dried fruit and nuts.
You can cook tagines in a dutch oven, a slow cooker or the Instant Pot with equally good results, the only difference is the length of cooking time and amount of liquid needed.
Crock Pots and pressure cookers require less liquid as they don’t allow for any evaporation. If you are cooking on the stove you will need more stock, adding extra if the pot is getting too dry.
Focusing on lamb does not narrow the field much: Zette Guinaudeau-Franc, whose 1958 book Fes Vu par sa Cuisine, was recommended to me by both Anissa Helou and Diana Henry, calls simply for mutton and Benkabbou for neck fillets, “or any type of stewing meat”, Paula Wolfert goes for bone-in leg in The Food of Morocco, Nigella Lawson for boneless leg in Nigella Christmas, Claudia Roden for boned shoulder, and Robert Carrier (who kept what the Guardian obituary describes as an “ornately restored mansion” in Marrakech) shoulder or cutlets.
They all work, of course, but my testers agree that lean leg seems like a waste when cheaper shoulder or neck gives a juicier result. I end up making my perfect tagine with goat for extra flavour (indeed, Jeff Koehler includes a kid recipe in Morocco: A Culinary Journey). But hogget, mutton and lamb will do just fine – and if you get it from a butcher, ask them to chuck in the bones, too, because they add an extra savoury note to Wolfert’s dish.
If not, given the difficulties of obtaining decent lamb stock, I’d recommend browning the meat, as Henry and Lawson do. Henry tells me she’s aware this isn’t the usual practice in Morocco, but says “I just think it tastes delicious” – and I agree. Be careful not to cut the meat too small, though, to avoid it drying out: you don’t need to get a ruler out, but 4cm chunks are perfect.
(Lamb-phobics note that John Gregory-Smith recommends beef shin in his gloriously rich-looking version in Honey & Spice for “an opulent tagine … perfect for a special occasion”.
Slow Cooker Lamb Tagine
- 900g lamb shoulder, neck or leg, cut into chunks
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 carrots, cut into chunks
- 2 tsp ras-el-hanout
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tbsp tomato purée
- 1 chicken or lamb stock cube or stock pot
- 1 sweet potato, cut into chunks
- 30g dried cherries
- ½ tsp honey
- ½ bunch coriander, chopped
- couscous, to serve
- STEP 1
Fry the lamb in the oil in batches and tip it into the slow cooker. Fry the onion in the same pan for 5 mins or until it softens a little. Add the carrots and spices, stir everything together, add the tomato purée, stock and 250ml water and swirl everything around the pan. Tip into the slow cooker. Add the sweet potato, dried cherries, honey and another 500ml water.
Cook on low for 8 hrs or high for 4 hrs. Stir in the coriander and serve with couscous. Leave to cool before freezing.
Lamb Tagine with Ras al Hanout
This Morrocan inspired meal is aromatic, perfectly seasoned and is best to be served with hot cooked couscous.
1½ kilograms boneless lamb leg steaks
½ cup plain flour
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
small bunch coriander, leaves and stalks separated
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon finely chopped rosemary
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon ras al hanout
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cinnamon stick
wide strips of peel and juice 1 orange
2 red onions, peeled and cut into sixths through the root
1 cup unsweetened pomegranate, sour cherry or cranberry juice
1 cup good beef stock
20 pitted prunes
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
1/3 cup dried cranberries
2 tablespoons pistachios
Preheat the oven to 150˚C.
Trim the lamb of excess fat and cut into large pieces. Put the flour and turmeric in a shallow dish and season generously. Toss the lamb to coat, shaking off any excess flour.
Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy-based casserole or tagine.
Add the lamb and cook over a medium heat until golden on all sides. You may have to do this in batches, adding extra olive oil if necessary. Don’t allow the flour to catch and burn on the base of the pan. Remove the lamb to a plate and set aside. Finely chop the coriander stems and any root, reserving the leaves for garnish. Add to the pan along with the garlic, rosemary, ginger, ras al hanout, tomato paste, cinnamon stick and the orange peel and juice.
Cook for 2-3 minutes to cook out the spices, adding a splash of water if they start to catch on the bottom of the pan. Add the onions and turn to coat in the spices. Add the pomegranate juice and stock, season and bring to the boil. Add the lamb and any meat juices back to the pan and stir to combine. Cover and cook for 1½ hours then add the prunes and cook for a further 15 minutes or until the lamb is very tender.