Recipe. You Won't Want to Miss This!
Moroccan Lamb Tagine
A tagine is a North African stew of spiced meat that is cooked "low and slow" in an earthenware casserole with a conical lid. This recipe is derived from my time in Morocco and features the tastes I experienced and some of the tips I learned from local chefs there. Just like with any stew you are already comfortable preparing, you should feel free to add the spices you prefer, as I did. Lamb is a meat commonly enjoyed in this part of the world.
4 lamb shanks, butcher cut into 9 pieces
5 tsp. Ras-el-Hanout* (see below)
1 tbs. ground ginger
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tbs. sugar
1 tbs. butter
4 tbs. orange blossom water (see below)
pinch of ground cinnamon
4 tbs. extra virgin olive oil (EEVO)
1 medium onion chopped
5 cloves of garlic, 2 whole, 3 chopped
1 cinnamon stick
24 toasted almonds, toasted
2 tbs. sesame seeds, toasted
fresh coriander chopped, for garnish
1. Combine spices (omitting sugar) and toast in sauté pan until aromatic (approximately 4-5 minutes). Grind in spice grinder (including sugar/ omitting cinnamon stick).*
2. Slowly boil prunes in 1 ½ cups of water for 30 minutes. Remove prunes. Add 1 TBS butter/2 TBS orange blossom water/pinch of cinnamon to prune liquid, and reduce until syrupy. About 15 minutes.
3. Add 4 TBS EVOO to tagine. Brown lightly seasoned lamb (salt and pepper) in tagine. Place aside.
4. Add chopped onion to tagine and cook until caramelized. Add garlic, ground spices, cinnamon stick, and 2 TBS orange blossom water. Saute for another 3 minutes.
5. Arrange lamb in tagine. The onions act as a shield to protect the meat. Add 1 ½ cups of water to the tagine. Cover and cook for three hours on low heat. Only open the tagine to check level of liquid. Add more water if needed.
*Due to the amount of lamb and the size of my tagine (too small), I felt it was more manageable to put the entire dish is a covered casserole and roast at 325 degrees for three hours. I then transferred the cooked meat and sauce to the tagine.
6. Remove pits from prunes and replace with toasted almonds. Toast 2 TBS sesame seeds.
7. To finish the dish place prunes around cooked lamb. Sprinkle prunes with toasted sesame seeds. Spoon the prune reduction over entire dish and garnish with chopped coriander.
Serve with warm apricot, coriander cous cous.
Don’t be intimidated by this recipe! It is not hard and directions are easy to follow. * Ras-el-Hanout is a blend of spices, just as we purchase curry powder, which is also a blend. If it’s not available to you, you can wing it, starting with coriander, cumin and cinnamon, which make up the base. To that you can add ginger, crushed red pepper flakes and turmeric, and you are pretty much there. You can also substitute a bit of orange zest in water if you don't have orange blossom water. Then just follow the recipe above. And by the way—no spice grinder, no problem; a small coffee grinder works just fine. You can also “pulse” into a fine grind in your blender!
Your favorite cous cous will work well. And last, stuffing the prune too fussy? I’ve seen the toasted almonds sprinkled over top. Also, I have had with no prunes at all. BUT, I will say that I have had this tagine, as above, more than once, prepared by Jay Miller himself, and it is delicious. You really feel like you are experiencing a cuisine from another part of the world. It is perfect for this time of year!
If so inclined, here is a recipe for making your own Ras-el-Hanout, which was published by Epicurious:
- 1 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
Toast coriander and cumin seeds in a small skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until aromatic and slightly darkened, about 4 minutes. Let cool. Grind in spice mill along with crushed red pepper flakes. Transfer finely ground spices to a small bowl. Add remaining ingredients and whisk together to blend. Store airtight at room temperature for as long as one month.