Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Moroccan Lamb Tagine, or How I Forgave the Weather for Being Cold and Wet

Welcome, winter.  Though you mark the end of wonderful things like tomatoes (grrrrr),  you allow me to turn on my oven for two hours and make lamb stew.  Amazing lamb stew.  And thank you, recipe-part-of-the-BBC's-website-which-I-didn't-realize-existed!  I've translated their recipe here, for your non-British enjoyment...  The recipe makes enough for 6-8 people, but did we scale it down? Nooooo.  Instead we have a meal's worth in the freezer, and leftovers for Thursday's dinner!  A word to the wise: you need a very large casserole dish for this.  Or two of them.  Trust us.

Lamb Tagine
spice mix:
1 t. cayenne
2 t. black pepper
1.5 T. paprika
1.5 T. ground ginger
1 T. turmeric
2 t. cinnamon

2 lb lamb stew cubes
2 large onions, grated (really! on a box grater, apparently) or minced
a few T. olive oil
a few T. argan oil (if you happen to have been to Morocco recently, or canola)
3 cloves garlic, crushed/minced/microplaned
2 c. tomato juice*
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes (the large can)
4 oz/.67ish c. dried apricots, snipped in half (a large, sticky handful)**
2 oz/.33ish c. dried dates, snipped in half (a small, slightly-less-sticky handful)
2 oz/.33ish c. golden raisins (a small, minimally-sticky handful)
3 oz/.5ish c. almonds-- flaked, chopped or slivered (a large handful)
1 t. saffron stamens
2 c. lamb or beef stock
1 T. honey
1 small bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped (for garnish)

Stir together spice mix.  Coat the lamb cubes in half of the mix (reserve the rest), and let marinate in the fridge for 6-12 hours.

Cook lamb cubes in olive/argan oil over med-high heat, transferring to your casserole dish(es) when nicely brown on the outsides.  You will probably have to do this in batches.  Deglaze pan with a splash of tomato juice and add this to the casserole.

The oil turns yellow from the turmeric...yum.
Looks can be deceiving-- partially cooked lamb does not make good eating.  (Yet.)
Start saffron soaking in a small bowl of water.  Preheat oven to 300.

...15 minutes later!

In a large saucepan***, saute onions and reserved spice mix over very low heat for about 10 minutes.  Onions should turn translucent but not brown.  BEWARE OF NOXIOUS ONION+CAYENNE+PEPPER+ TURMERIC GASES.  Resist the urge to take a deep breath of the fumes.  Add garlic and continue to cook over low heat and breathe sparingly.

Gas mask suggested.
After 2-3 minutes, add remaining tomato juice and/or stock to deglaze this pan, then add this awesomely-colored concoction to the casserole dish.

This was 3/4 of the stew-- smaller casserole dish, also full, not pictured.
Carefully stir in fruit, almonds, honey, diced tomatoes, saffron+its water, cover, and bake for 2 hours.  To check for doneness, remove from oven and fish out a lamb cube; if it is easy to stab with a fork and has the most amazing texture, it's done.  Otherwise, cook for an additional half hour.

Serve over couscous (Bring 1.5 c. water to a boil, add .5 T. butter, remove from heat, add 1 c. couscous, cover pan, and leave undisturbed for 5 minutes.  Uncover and fluff with a fork.  Feeds 3-4, scale up as needed.) with cilantro garnish.  Enjoy!

*Did you know that it is humanly impossible to buy tomato juice in this quantity??  There's 3.5 cups of tomato juice in our freezer now.
**Use a scale if you have one; it's especially nice if you can re-zero it and then weigh all of these things together.  But you don't have to be exact-- tagine will not be ruined by a few extra apricots.
***Ideally, you'd have a really nice enameled casserole dish (maybe in a color that matches your stand mixer) that can also go on the stovetop, and you would just do all of this in that (having set the lamb aside in a bowl, to add back in when you add everything else).

We didn't have any cilantro, but we forced it down anyways.

P.S. The dates will turn golden, look like olives, and taste like slow-cooked lamb....!!!  Prepare yourself for this culinary alchemy.
P.P.S. Turmeric/saffron stain things yellow.  Such as, countertops (so I hear) and tupperware containers (so I see).

P.P.P.S. I swear I was not drinking when I
took this picture but I thought it was level!


  1. You know if you have a Dutch oven with an oven-proof lid and handles, like the one I have, you can do the whole thing in one pot. Just saying.

  2. Well, clearly some of us aren't that fancy. Just sayin'.