A few years ago, at the university where I work, we had a Moroccan Fullbright student who taught my husband and I how to make a chicken tagine. I was mesmerized by the cooking process, and the results: a delightful flavor, the aroma of my kitchen, and a very tender meat.
Ever since, I wanted to make a Moroccan lamb tagine. I must admit, I put this recipe together kind of quickly. My husband and I always like to make lamb for Easter. It’s a tradition. This year was no different, but we wanted to make something different. Enter traditional lamb tagine with apricots!
I started playing around with what I thought would be the appropriate seasonings. Well, I guess I succeeded, because everyone raved about it.
For those who are not familiar with the term, a tagine is a two part clay cooking vessel common throughout North Africa. The bottom part is a shallow bowl, and the top is a tapered rounded cone-like piece topped by a knob which in turn is vented at the top. The clay allows for slow cooking which infuses the food with fabulous flavors. There are various styles, from simple solid colors, to beautifully embellished models.
And now for a little tagine history…
The tagine was developed centuries ago as a portable oven, and was first used by nomadic tribes. As far as how old it is… well, it was mentioned in One Thousand and One Nights. A tagine-like vessel was also used in the times of the Roman Empire. The tagine has evolved over the centuries, and no two recipes are alike. For example, some tagines include prunes, dates, olives or preserved lemons, and sometimes a combination of all of them. Apricots, as in this recipe are also popular.
The tagine is similar to a slow cooker in the sense that the meat is cooked slowly, for lack of a better explanation. Two words of warning: to use your tagine vessel on the stove top, you will need a metal plate (see above) on which to rest the shallow bowl. This piece is necessary to prevent the bowl from breaking. It is normally sold separately. The other advice, is to cure your tagine before cooking in it for the first time. I have extensive instructions on the curing process on my recipe for Moroccan chicken tagine.
In my traditional lamb tagine recipe with apricots, these add a lovely sweet accent and texture to the dish. The pistachios add a bit of a crunch. This recipe is a true fusion of flavors, and textures. Parsley adds a punch of color, and herbal tones as well.
Make sure you slice the potatoes super thin.If you have a mandolin, that is the best option. If not, use your sharpest knife. The potatoes should be added within 30 minutes of the tagine being done. The photo above shows the tagine dish just before I added the potato slices.
One culinary tip: Do not skip the marinating step. This is really important in order to allow all the flavors to penetrate the lamb.
While cooking the tagine, my house smelled wonderful. Three hours after finishing dinner we could still smell the amazing aromas of my traditional lamb tagine with apricots.
Now, if you do not have a tagine dish, and do not want to invest in one, you can prepare this recipe in a slow cooker, a Dutch oven, or even a braising pan. The trick is to cook it nice and slow. The potatoes should be added towards the end, just like you would when cooking in a tagine dish.
Make a traditional lamb tagine with apricots for your next gathering, or Sunday meal. Your family and guests will ask for more.
If you want to try your hand at another tagine recipe, check out my Moroccan chicken tagine. Easy and delicious.
There is also Moroccan saffron chicken, which is one of my favorites.
Another Moroccan dish you might also like is this hearty Moroccan chickpea and lentil soup.
And let’s not forget Moroccan country bread.
Traditional Lamb Tagine with Apricots
This recipe for traditional Moroccan lamb tagine with apricots is perfect to feed a large crowd. In essence it's a stew that is cooked slowly in a tagine dish. The flavors of aromatic spices will fill your house with a wonderful aroma. Apricots and pistachios add a wonderful texture contrast.
Seasoning for marinade
For the seasoning and marinating the lamb
In a small bowl mix together all the spices.
Place the cut up lamb in a glass dish, and drizzle with the olive oil. Mix in thoroughly with your hands.
Evenly sprinkle with the spice mixture, and again, mix thoroughly with your hands.
Place in the refrigerator for 3 hours.
To prepare the lamb.
Place the onions on the bottom of the tagine dish, and sprinkle with salt. Sweat them down for about 20 minutes on medium.
Slowly, add the meat, and break up any pieces that are stuck together.
Cook for about 20 minutes, uncovered, and stirring often.
In a bowl, whisk together the broth, tomato paste, and cornstarch, and add to the meat. Stir to combine.
Wrap the cardamom pods in a piece of cheesecloth and tie with a piece of twine. Add to the meat and broth mixture.
Stir in the apricots and pistachios.
Cover, and cook for 1 hour on low.
Sprinkle the parsley on top, then line with the potatoes forming concentric circles.
Cover again, and cook for an additional 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft.