Moroccan Lamb Tagine

Imagine yourself resting atop a brightly colored, straw-stuffed pillow, bobbing back and forth as the camel carrying you wanders his way across the Sahara.  You have spent the morning winding your way through the skinny clay streets of downtown Fes, where the musty air and friendly shopkeepers made a powerful impression.  You wear a bright orange head scarf to keep the dust out of nostrils while breathing in deep the vastness of the ocean of sand waves that surround you. You arrive at camp as the day draws to a close, but still manage to climb the highest dune nearby to  watch the fiery sun drop over the desert.  And the infinite stars begin peeking out of the dusk sky, your ears catch a note of rhythm.  You make your way back towards camp, and the tribal beat calls.  You can feel its ancestral pull on your shoulders as they begin to sway.  You join the Berber drum circle that has congregated in the center of camp, and spend the next while dancing freely around a blazing fire.

Soon, the sweet scents of smoky paprika, rich cumin and delicate saffron overtake the crisp air, and you sit down with your new friends to share a hearty meal complimented by a steaming cup of Berber whisky (sweet mint tea).  The grunts of the camels in the distance are the perfect Saharan dinner music.

This Moroccan Lamb Tagine (stew) captures the essence of that night in the Sahara.  The heavy spicing brings a rich earthiness to the tagine that is balanced by the softness of the tender lamb and sweetness of the raisins, while the tangy olives and lemon zest add a brightness reminiscent of the vibrance of the clothes and smiles of the people wearing them.  When prepared with patience and appreciation, this Moroccan lamb tangine can almost bring me to that special place in Northern Africa.  A little Moroccan music in the background doesn’t hurt either!

This Moroccan Lamb Tagine (tagine meaning both a stew and the clay pot used to cook it in) is traditionally served with couscous, but I make mine with Cauliflower Rice to soak up all the rich flavors.  And don’t forget your Berber whisky, which is simple peppermint-leaf tea lightly sweetened with liquid stevia or raw honey (or nothing at all!).

moroccan lamb tagine

  • YIELD: 8 Servings
  • PREP: 6 hrs 0 min
  • COOK: 2 hrs 30 mins
  • READY IN: 8 hrs 30 mins

Savory lamb stew sweetened with raisins and full of Moroccan spice, best served with Cauliflower Rice.

ingredients

  • 1 lb. organic lamb 1/2 inch cubes, preferably stew meat
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 lemon peel zested
  • 2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 2 tsp sweet paprika
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 2 tsp ras el hanout
  • 1 tsp black pepper fresh ground
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • pinch saffron threads
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • pinch sea salt finely ground
  • 16 oz. strawberry tomatoes pureed to a fine paste in food processor
  • 6 carrots peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 yellow onion cut in 3/4 inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 2 turnips peeled and cut in 3/4 inch cubes
  • 20 green olives pitted, Spanish style
  • 1/2 cup flat leaf parsley fresh, chopped fine
  • 1/2 cup cilantro fresh, chopped fine
  • 3 Tbsp lemon juice fresh squeezed
  • 1/4 cup raw almonds cut in half lengthwise and dry toasted in skillet over low heat, about 5 minutes
  • 1 bulb fennel cut in 3/4 inch cubes

instructions

  1. In a large bowl, mix olive oil with lemon zest, ginger, paprikas, coriander, cumin, cardamom, ras el hanout, pepper, cayenne, cloves, saffron, cinnamon stick and salt. Pour over cubed lamb, cover, and marinate in fridge for 4-6 hours.
  2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees fahrenheit.
  3. Scrape lamb and all of spice mixture into the bottom of a tagine. Layer raisins on top of the lamb meat, creating a small circle covering the center of the meat. Layer turnips, carrots, fennel and onions on top in a conical pile, making sure the tagine lid fits securely on top without touching the sides of the vegetables. 
  4. Mix tomato puree with enough water to make 3 cups, and pour slowly over meat and vegetables in tagine, making sure to not let liquid rise more than 1/2 inch from the lip of the tagine basin.
  5. Heat tagine slowly, uncovered, over gas burner with diffuser added to evenly distribute heat. Once liquid begins to simmer, cover tagine with lid and bake for 2 hours 30 minutes in preheated oven.
  6. Remove tagine from oven, uncover, sprinkle with olives, and bake covered another 15 minutes.
  7. Remove tagine from oven again, and sprinkle toasted almonds, chopped parsley and cilantro on top of stew. Drizzle with lemon juice. Serve atop Cauliflower Rice.