There are many versions of lamb tagine in Morocco but this one is my absolute favourite! Cooked slowly in a rich tomato sauce with dates and apricots it sounds like it would be too sticky and sweet but it isn’t at all and whilst the flavours are rich it isn’t a heavy dish either. I don’t like mixing too many vegetables in with my meat tagines and generally I serve another vegetable tagine or dish to accompany the meat based tagine. Vegetables can get terribly mushy when cooked for as long as the meat needs to be cooked and the flavours and spices in this tagine are there to really bring out the best of the lamb specifically.
I like to buy a large leg of lamb from the butcher and cut the meat off in cubes myself which enables me to choose how much fat I want in the mix and also the size of pieces I prefer. I then weigh and bag it up as I need it. It is a much more economical way to buy meat and I use the bones to make a decent lamb stock which comes in handy! I buy the best free range lamb I can afford and we really dont eat it that often.
This tagine will taste even better the following day so if you are serving it to a crowd make it the afternoon before and just leave it in a cold place overnight to let the flavours really meld into the meat.
You don’t have to marinade the meat in the spices the night before but I do recommend it for at least 3 to 4 hours as it does make a difference.
Ingredients – Serves 4
3 tbsp Moroccan Spice mix (*see note below)
600g cubed lamb shoulder or leg
1 large onions, grated with liquid squeezed out
4 tbsp olive oil
You can add fresh red chilli if you like to taste
1 Cinnamon stick
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 x 400g tinned chopped tomatoes
50g dates, cut in half
50g Dried apricots chopped
50g flaked or slivered toasted almonds
250ml meat or veg stock
Sea salt to taste
2 tbsp coriander, roughly chopped
2 tbsp flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
- Moroccan Spice mix: 1 tbsp each ground: Cumin, Coriander, paprika, Turmeric, 1/2 tbsp ground cinnamon and ginger – mix and store in a jar)
Place the lamb in a large bowl and toss together with 2 tbsp of the spice mix and 1 tbsp olive oil. Cover and leave overnight in the fridge or at least for 3 hours.
Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas2.
Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large casserole or saucepan that can move into the oven. Add the grated onion and cook for 4 minutes till translucent. Add the garlic and cook for a further 2 minutes.
Add the 1 tbsp on spice mix to the onion spice mix and cook over a gentle heat for a further couple of minutes adding a splash of water if you need to.
In a separate frying pan, heat the remaining oil and brown the cubes of lamb on all sides then add the browned meat to your onion mix. De-glaze the frying pan with the stock and add the meat and stock to the onion mixture in the casserole dish.
• Add the chopped tomatoes, dried fruits, cinnamon stick and the flaked almonds to the casserole dish. Have a look below to get an idea of liquid to meat ration you will need before you put it in the oven. Bring to the boil, cover with a fitted lid, place in the oven and cook for 2-2½ hours or until the meat is meltingly tender. Check on it half way through to see what the liquid level is like.
• Stir through half the fresh chopped herbs and then place the lamb in a tagine or large serving dish and sprinkle over the remainder chopped herbs and more almonds for beautification. Serve with couscous and salads and a vegetable tagine if you like.