NOTE: An updated version of this recipe appears in my cookbook, The Ancestral Table.
A tagine is a type of slow-cooked Moroccan stew, which gets it name from the pot it is usually cooked in, also named tagine (طاجين). It is often spelled as tajine as well. A typical tagine is made with cheaper cuts of lamb or beef, like shoulder or shank, but can also be used with chicken and seafood. Seasonal fruits like dates, raisins, and apricots are often used, as well as honey and preserved lemons.
For this recipe, I decided to make a baseline lamb tagine dish – no frills or gimmicks, just a simple template for you to follow. Feel free to experiment with tastes, especially different veggies (potatoes and olives add an interesting dynamic) and meats as you see fit. Since preserved lemons aren’t the easiest thing in the world to find (although making them yourself seems pretty easy), using chopped lemon rind works almost as well, and it’s what I usually use at home. Lastly, while tagines are very pretty looking, that’s a lot of cookware just for one type of dish – my trusty Le Creuset dutch oven worked out beautifully, as always.
Also, don’t forget that I am hosting a $50 gift card giveaway for Lava Lake Lamb this week! I used their delicious lamb shoulder for this recipe, and I can’t say enough good stuff about how well it turned out.
for the marinade –
1 lamb shoulder (about 2.5 lbs), cut into 1″ chunks
1 tbsp ground ginger
2 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp each ground cinnamon, turmeric, paprika
1 tbsp olive oil
for the stew –
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, blended
2 tbsp harissa
2 medium carrots, chopped into bite-sized chunks
1/2 cup each dried apricots and raisins/sultanas
3 pitted dates, cut in half
1 tsp honey
1.5 cups chicken broth
Cut your lamb shoulder into chunks, then combine with the marinade ingredients (mix the ingredients together first), then seal and marinate overnight.
The following day, get your stew ingredients together.
Be sure to handle your marinated meat delicately with some tongs, since the turmeric in the marinade will just love to get all over your clothes.
You want the pieces well-browned and somewhat crusty-looking. Once they are all browned, set them aside.
Next, add your blended onion, and sauté on medium heat for about five minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated out of them and they appear translucent in color. Be sure to scrape up any chunks of lamb during this step.
Add the harissa, stirring everything together. Sauté for another two minutes.
Return the lamb and its accumulated juices to the dish, as well as the carrots, honey, and fruit. Add enough chicken broth to mostly cover the pieces, about 1.5 cups. Cover and simmer on low for two hours, then check the lamb with a fork for tenderness. It should easily pierce the meat; if not, give it another 30 minutes and check again.
Once the lamb is tender but before moving on to the next step of the recipe, peel off three strips of lemon peel, and finely chop them. Set everything aside as we finish up the stew.
When the lamb is ready, fish out each of the pieces with some tongs and set aside. Increase the stove’s heat to medium, and reduce the sauce for about five minutes. If you’d like, you can spoon out some of the extra fat that’s on the stop of the sauce. Once the sauce has reduced by about 25% (you’ll know when it starts looking more like a stew than a soup), return the lamb to the dish and add the juice of 1/2 lemon and the chopped lemon shavings.
That’s it! Serve and enjoy. This dish is often served with couscous, but we prefer it with basmati rice.