Casablanca: Lamb Tagine
Tagines are both the name of a type of pot (pictured above) and the slow-roasted meals that are prepared in them. Typically, cinnamon, honey, and fruit - dried and fresh - give the tagine exotic, evocative aroma and flavor.
The good news is that you don't need a tagine to cook a tagine, any dutch oven will do. However, I purchased one to enhance the presentation of the Moroccan Feast. For more information on picking a tagine, check out this short article.
You can cook the entire dish in a tagine, directly on the stove top if you use a diffuser. Cooking it directly on the flame will likely cause a the pot to crack, creating a truly unhappy mess.
Alternatively, do the browning in a separate pan (as I have below), and transfer the ingredients to an oven proof dish for the "slow cook". Traditionally, tagine is cooked over a fire, but I've had success either on top of the stove or in an oven. Just remember, slow is the way to go. You want the meat to simmer for long time, until it is almost falling apart and delicious.
The most common recipes for tagine use prunes, but it is also delicious to add apricots, apples, olives, toasted almonds, or ripe pears in the final step. The dish can be cooked a day ahead to the penultimate step; then just add the fruit, honey and spices. Like most stews it tastes even better the next day.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil (or enough to film the bottom of the pot)
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 2 pounds lean, trimmed lamb stew meat - use leg of lamb or lamb shoulder cut in 2 inch pieces
- 2 onions
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 10 threads of saffron
- 1 bunch of fresh cilantro (about 10 to 15 sprigs) tied with string
- 1 cup pitted prunes
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 - 2 teaspoon ground cinnamon to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- salt and pepper to taste
- Optional (2 pears cored, and chopped into 1 inch pieces, 1/2 cup of apricots, 1/2 cup of Golden Sultana Raisins, 1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds, 1 sliced medium onion)
Heat the oil in a pan (or the tagine). Saute the meat, browning it on all sides for about 3-5 minutes.
Sprinkle a heaping teaspoon of turmeric and a teaspoon of ginger over the meat and stir until absorbed. (If you're using a separate pot for the saute, now transfer the meat to the tagine.)
Add a chopped onion to the pot. Tie a generous bunch (10-15 springs) of cilantro with some cord (to make it easier to remove later). Add the mop of cilantro to the pot. (Alternatively, chop the same amount of cilantro and simply add it to the pot.) Add a cup of chicken stock, cover, and cook over a low flame for 2 hours.
When the meat has cooked to tender, remove the meat to a warm platter, leaving the liquid in the pot. Add the onion, fruit (including any of the optional ingredients), cinnamon, salt, pepper, and honey to the liquid already in the pot.
Here, I've added a sliced onion as my "optional" item. Let the sauce reduce and thicken for a few minutes. Check for taste at this point, adding a bit more honey if desired. Now, add the meat back to the sauce, stir, and cook covered for another 5-10 minutes.
Bring the tagine to the table, covered, and reveal it at the table. A word of caution here: the saffron may collect in the condensed steam in the top of the pot. If you put it down on the table you may get a big, round stain. So, have something to put the top onto when you do your presentation.
One of the interesting things about the design of most tagine (the pot) is that the handle on top does not get hot, even after long cooking. However, test your pot carefully before you demonstrate this at the table!
Serve the tagine on a bed of cous cous.
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