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Lamb Tagine

Here in the Northeast U.S., we’re in the throes of an arctic chill. The kind that makes you wish you were lounging somewhere in the Caribbean until April. 

A girl can dream, can’t she?.
In the event that’s not in the cards for you either, here’s the next best thing – a rich tagine made with lamb, figs, olives and preserved lemons.
Tagine is a North African stew-type dish named for the conical, earthenware container in which it’s typically cooked. It can be made with lamb, chicken, beef, or with vegetables only. And since I had half a lamb sitting in my freezer that I bought from someone I met at a dinner party a couple of months ago, lamb tagine was in the cards.
Don’t fret if you don’t have a tagine pot – any kind of heavy, covered pot, like a Dutch oven will work.
But make sure NOT to skip the preserved lemons if they’re not available at your local supermarket. You can buy them online or in stores that sell Middle Eastern groceries, but you can make them yourself too. These were a homemade gift from Kay, one of my book club members, and I finally got around to using them recently. Kay used a recipe from Simply Recipes that you can find here.
The first time I made this, I served it with fregola, a grain commonly eaten in Sardinia. It’s similar to Israeli couscous, but nuttier tasting because it’s toasted. According to Wikipedia, Genovese immigrants who lived in Tunisia first imported the grain to Italy.
The next time I made it with potatoes boiled and tossed with a little butter and parsley. It tastes great with any kind of starch, so choose your favorite or whatever you have on hand. Polenta, noodles or rice would all be delicious and would make this the perfect comfort food for a cold night’s meal.
Moroccan Lamb Stew/ Lamb Tagine
(Inspired by recipe from Gastronomersguide.com)
2-1/2 pounds boneless lamb shoulder, cut into 1-1/2-inch chunks
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1/4 cup minced parsley or cilantro
fine sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped (I used tomatoes from my garden that I had frozen whole. If you don’t have these, buy some canned tomatoes and just use a few.)
2 cups chicken stock

pinch of saffron
6 dried figs, cut into quarters (or 12 prunes)

about a dozen olives (I used Kalamata)

1 preserved lemon (4 quarters), rinsed, pulp discarded, thinly sliced

four or five carrots, cut into chunks and steamed

steamed couscous (or potatoes) for serving

parsley or cilantro sprigs, for garnish

Add lamb to a large resealable plastic bag. Combine spices and pour over
lamb, seal bag, and shake until lamb is coated in mixture. Let marinate
in refrigerator overnight or for at least 1 hour. Let lamb rest at room
temperature for at least 30 minutes before cooking.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare the bouquet garni by combining
cilantro and parsley sprigs on a square piece of cheesecloth. Bring
corners together and tie securely with kitchen twine.

Heat a seasoned 13-inch tagine, with a heat diffuser, over medium heat.
Drizzle a thin layer of olive oil in the bottom. Season the marinated
lamb chunks with salt and pepper. Sear in batches until brown all over.
Refresh oil as needed. Remove to a plate.

Add onion and a pinch of salt and saute, scraping up any brown bits,
until soft and translucent, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and saute until
fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes with their juice and bouquet
garni. Add back seared lamb. Cover with stock. Crumble in saffron and
season with salt and pepper. Slowly bring liquid to a simmer. Cover with
lid and place in oven for 2 – 2 1/2 hours.  Half way through cooking time, check
to make sure lamb is still covered by liquid. Additional stock can be
added. Add cooked carrots, figs (or prunes), olives and preserved lemon slices 20 minutes toward end of
cooking time. If too much liquid, leave the lid off so evaporation can occur. Check seasoning. Serve over couscous (or with potatoes) and top with toasted
almonds and cilantro. Yield: 6 to 8 servings.

This Post Has 9 Comments
  1. Talk about the perfect cold weather dish – this is it. And how cool that you had the lamb in your freezer. It sounds so good, and I can see how the preserved lemons really put it over the top. Stay warm!

  2. I see that you enjoyed our California sunshine, recently. It's been nice, but I'd rather have rain. This would be perfect on a cool day. I recently made preserved lemons, and I really look forward to putting them to good use. This looks like a great start.

  3. It sounds wonderful! I need some comfort food right now!! Although we are in the Sunshine state for a few months your cold weather has drifted down here. I didn't bring enough warm clothing for the temps we have. This dish would warm me from the inside out!! Oh! I saw preserved lemons at Trader Joe the other day.

  4. I'm one of those odd birds who actually likes a good winter storm, but I have to say this is too cold even for me! One reason I like the winter is, it provides a good excuse for all those delicious stick-to-the-ribs dishes like this one.

  5. If it has to be winter (and apparently it does) and we have to be in the midst of a Siberian air blast (and we are) then this is the only remedy. Love a good tangible! And love an excuse to use preserved lemons. You just warmed me right up!

  6. I have to confess I'm not a lamb person but i would certainly make this with chicken, I love the mix of olives, figs and preserved lemons, which Trader Joe's now carries. The last time I had preserved lemons they were super salty, do you rinse them?

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