This is a classic lamb tagine with dried apricots, flavoured with saffron, ginger and cinnamon, and sweetened with honey and takes its name from the pot in which it is cooked.
The tagine pot consists of a shallow earthenware dish and a unique conical lid. The food is cooked in just a small amount of liquid as the shape of the lid means that very little moisture is lost through evaporation. Instead it condenses and runs down the lid back into the pan. Mr B took me to Marakesh a few years back to celebrate a special birthday and I got the rather splendid tagine used in these pictures there. It was really cheap, and the meat I bought for the first tagine I cooked in it, cost twice as much as the pot itself. Of course you can make a tagine without a special pan. Just use a large shallow pan with a well fitting lid but as I have a tagine it is rather fun to use it.
The secret to a successful tagine is slow gentle cooking until the the meat is meltingly tender and the juices have reduced to a thickened, slightly syruppy sauce. Fragrant and packed full of flavour, tagines are traditionally served as a course on their own with bread for mopping up the sauce. They are then followed by a seperate course of couscous. Here, however, it is more common to serve the couscous along side. I think a side salad or a side dish of roasted aubergine, peppers and onions completes the meal perfectly. Check out my recipe for couscous here.
Step by step lamb tagine
- 2 tbsp rapeseed or olive oil
- 30 g blanched almonds
- 2 onions chopped
- 2 cloves garlic chopped
- good pinch saffron threads
- 5 cm piece root ginger peeled and finely chopped
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 tsp coriander seeds crushed
- ½ tsp cumin seeds crushed
- 500 g lean lamb cut into bite size pieces
- 500 ml water
- 18 dried apricots
- few strips orange zest removed with a potato peeler
- 2 tbsp runny honey
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- couscous to serve
- Heat the oil in a shallow pan and stir in the almonds, cook until golden, then add the chopped onions and cook for about 4–5 minutes until softened and beginning to colour.
- Stir in the garlic, then add the saffron, ginger cinnamon, coriander and cumin. Stir well.
- Add the meat to the pan and cook for a few minutes turning to brown slightly, then stir in the water.
- Bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 1 hour until the meat is just tender.
- Add the apricots and orange zest to the pan, cover again and simmer for another 20 minutes.
- Stir in the honey and season well. Cover and cook for 10 minutes. The juices should now be reduced and slightly syrupy. If it is too thick add a little more water, too thin then simmer for a few minutes uncovered.
- Serve with couscous.