Lamb is by far my favourite meat; there is just something about the smell of it cooking that takes me right back to my childhood. It is quite a fragrant, somewhat ‘perfumey’ meat, for want of a better word, that can be a bit of an acquired taste. However, when prepared well, lamb is succulent and rich in flavour. Lamb tagine is comfort food to me, and the addition of all the warm, heady spices, the vegetables, and the fruit makes this dish a perfect dinner on a cool autumn night.
A tagine is a cooking method similar to a stew in manner and appearance. The name is derived from the earthen wear pot in which the stew is cooked. The shape of the pot allows the trapped steam to condense and remain in the dish, so a minimal amount of cooking liquid is needed to produce a stew. Although handy to have, a tagine is not necessary to achieve a slow-cooked savoury stew; any casserole dish with a lid may be used in its place.
This Moroccan Lamb Tagine recipe uses spices that bring out the warm, rich lamb flavour. Because it’s so rich and strong in flavour, lamb meat can handle a lot of spice without detracting from its unique taste. Ras-el-Hanout is the name of the spice blend used in Moroccan cuisine and this recipe.
It’s made with cumin, coriander, cardamom, peppercorns, turmeric, and red pepper flakes, as well as a variety of other spices, depending on where the blend is purchased. You can make your blend by toasting spice seeds and blitzing them together in a spice mill ahead of time, or if you prefer, just use store-bought pre-ground individual spices. Adding dried apricots brings out the sweetness in the meat, and the fruitiness balances out this spicy dish wonderfully.
Filling Moroccan Lamb Tagine
- 1 ½ pounds ground lamb (minced lamb) - shoulder or loin
- ¾ cup chickpeas - drained and rinsed
- 3 cloves garlic - minced
- ¾ cup yellow onion - diced
- 1 small cinnamon stick
- 3 teaspoons tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ tablespoon ginger - chopped
- 1 ½ cups tomato - with juice and diced
- 1 cup beef stock (beef broth or beef bouillon) - low sodium preferred
- 2 medium carrots - peeled, cut lengthwise and quartered
- ½ medium lemon zest
- 1 dash ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons cilantro - chopped
- 2 tablespoons parsley - chopped
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 ½ teaspoons turmeric
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon honey
- ¼ teaspoon cardamom - ground
- 1 teaspoon cilantro (coriander) - ground
- ½ teaspoon cumin - ground
- 1 pinch red pepper flakes - crushed
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Soak saffron in 1 teaspoon warm water and allow it to ‘bloom’.
- Heat olive oil in a large skillet or sauté pan over medium heat.
- Salt and pepper lamb evenly and sear in a preheated sauté pan for bout 6 to 7 minutes or until well browned.
- Add paprika, turmeric, black pepper, salt, cardamom, cumin, coriander, cinnamon stick and red pepper flakes to the lamb and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Remove lamb from pan and set aside in tagine or casserole dish.
- Deglaze pan with a bit of beef stock, add onion and cook for 2 minutes until the onion is softened.
- Remove pan from heat and add cooked onion to the lamb.
- Add tomato paste, beef stock, garlic, ginger, carrot, tomato and accumulated juice, honey and saffron with soaking water. Mix to coat lamb and incorporate all the ingredients.
- Cook for 1 hour.
- Remove tagine or casserole from the oven and add the apricots, chickpeas, cilantro, parsley and lemon zest. Stir gently to blend.
- Return to oven for 20 minutes.
- Serve immediately with couscous or chunks of crusty bread.