A tagine consists of soft chunks of meat and/or vegetables scented with spices and often sweetened with fruit. It originated in North Africa, but quickly spread to France, maybe because it is similar to a French ragout. The difference is in the seasonings used and the amount of liquid. A ragout almost always requires a significant amount of wine and sometimes broth to braise the meat, a tagine needs very little in the way of additional liquid. That due to the shape of the pot (also called a tagine) used to prepare the dish. The cooking vessel has a domed tight-fitting lid. As the food cooks, aromatic steam rises to the top of the lid and drips back over the contents of the dish. and the food steams as it cooks, rising to the top of the lid and then dropping back over the contents of the dish. The food is bathed in its own juices.
Don’t worry if you don’t have a tagine. I have cooked this successfully in a covered casserole dish, first covered tightly with aluminum foil and followed by the lid, It should be tightly sealed so no steam escapes.
The classical accompaniment to tagine is couscous, but rice or flat bread works very well. You will want something to soak up the juices.
This recipe came from the New York Times Sunday addition, The New Essentials of French Cooking.
The best lamb to use is bone-in lamb stew meat. At my local butcher I found it for $3.99/pound. That is a very good price here in Northern California, making this a very affordable dish, fancy enough for company.
Lamb Tagine with Apricots (feeds 4 – 6)
- 3 pounds of bone-in lamb stew meat (lamb neck is delicious) cut into 1 1/2 to 2 inch pieces. If your lamb more bone than meat, you may want a little extra.
- 2 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt plus more as needed.
- 1 3/4 lamb or chicken stock
- 1 cup of dried apricots
- 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- 2 large onions, thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon of tomato paste
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger, peeled and grated
- 2 small cinnamon sticks
- large pinch of saffron
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 3/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon
- pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
- 1/3 cup of packed cilantro, tightly packed, chopped and divided in half
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup of sliced almonds
- 2 scallions, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
I found it easiest to measure out the spices into a small bowl before I started cooking.
- If you have time, one day before or at least 1 hour before, put the lamb in a large bowl and add 2 teaspoons of the kosher salt. Combine and let sit at room temperature for an hour or overnight in the fridge.
- When ready to start cooking, heat the stock to boiling in a small saucepan. Add the apricots and turn off the heat. Let them sit for at least 15 minutes.
- Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F.
- In a dutch oven, skillet, or bottom of your tagine, warm 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat until hot. Add the lamb in batches and brown, leaving space around each piece. Try to brown all sides of the meat. This could take 10 minutes or more. Remove the lamb pieces to a plate as they are browned.
- Drain any excess fat in the pan and add the onions and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Cook until they soften, another 8-10 minutes.
- Add the tomato paste, fresh ginger, 1 cinnamon stick, and the spices to the onions in the pan. Cook until fragrant (a couple of minutes), then add back the lamb and any juices, plus the apricots, stock, and half the cilantro.
- (If you have done this in a skillet, transfer everything to your casserole dish, scraping up any brown bits in the bottom of your skillet.)
- Bring it to a simmer and cover the pot tightly.
- Transfer to the oven and cook 2 1/2 to 3 hours, until the lamb is tender. The original recipe calls for turning the lamb occasionally, but I was busy and left it for the 3 hours without any ill effects.
- Melt the butter in a small skillet with the cinnamon stick. Add the almonds and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook gently until golden brown. Discard the cinnamon stuck and remove the skillet from the heat.
- When serving, garnish the lamb with the almonds, remaining chopped cilantro, scallions, and parsley.
Opening the tagine dish or casserole dish is an amazing experience. As you lift the lid, aromatic steam is released full of the scent of exotic spices. Quickly garnish the dish just before serving. This can also be made ahead and gently reheated.
This is a perfect dish to dazzle my fellow bloggers at Fiesta Frida #162. Fiesta Friday is a virtual party (unfortunately) but you may be inspired to make some of the dishes yourself this weekend. Please come join the fun, we would also love to see your own post at the party. Fiesta Friday is hosted by Angie and co-hosted this week by Sarah @ Tales From The Kitchen Shed and Liz @ Spades, Spatulas, and Spoons (hey, that’s me!!).
Click on the Fiesta Friday link to read the posts.