A traditional tagine is a North African dish named after the earthenware pot in which it is cooked. It's a slow-cooked stew that typically includes a combination of meat, vegetables, dried fruits, and a mix of aromatic spices. I first ate this in Paris when I was a student. The accompanying sauce was the spiciest I had eaten at that point in my life.Since then, I have been to North Africa, with trips to Egypt, Somaliland, Tunisia and Morocco. It was in Morocco where I had my best tagines, which is why this recipe has a Morrocan flavour. We stayed in a Riad and ate in the courtyard under an open sky. A Riad is a traditional Moroccan house or palace with an indoor garden and courtyard. They are located within the old city “Medina” walls.Generally, the Riad is fully enclosed inside, insulated with high-strength, neutral walls and with minimal vents to keep out heat and street noiseRiads are also known for their open-ceiling structure. Usually, the indoor courtyard of these charming buildings is decorated with colored traditional mosaics called “ Zellij” and emphasized with marble fountains in the center with plants, trees and flowers all around.Here is my recipe for a tasty lamb (or camel) tagine:
- 1 traditional tagine pot (or a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven)
- 4 whole dried red chilli peppers
- 1 tsp 1caraway seeds
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 3 clove garlic (minced)
- 1 tbsp sun dried tomato paste
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1 pinch rock salt (to taste)
- 1 pinch black pepper (to taste)
- 700 g lamb (cut into chunks)
- 2 large onions (finely chopped)
- 3 cloves garlic (minced)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- 3 whole dried chillis (crumbled)
- 1 cup dried apricots (halved)
- ½ cup raisins
- ½ cup blanched almonds
- 1 preserved lemon (pulp removed, rind thinly sliced)
- 1 cup chicken or lamb broth
- 2 tbsp honey
Seasoning - to taste
- black pepper
- rock salt
- 1 tbsp Fresh coriander (roughly chopped)
Brown the meat
- If using a traditional tagine pot, soak it in water for at least 1 hour before cooking. This helps prevent the pot from cracking during cooking.
- Heat the olive oil in the tagine or pot over medium-high heat. Add the lamb chunks and brown them on all sides. Remove the lamb and set it aside.
Prepare the base
- In the same pot, add the chopped onions and cook until softened. Add minced garlic and cook for an additional minute.
- Mix in the ground cumin, coriander, cinnamon, ginger, paprika, turmeric, cayenne pepper, dried chillis, salt, and pepper. Stir well to coat the onions and garlic with the spices.
- Return the browned lamb to the pot. Add dried apricots, raisins, almonds and preserved lemon slices. Pour in the chicken or lamb broth.
- Bring the mixture to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low. Cover the pot and let it simmer for about 1.5 to 2 hours or until the meat is tender.
- Stir in the honey during the last 15 minutes of cooking.
Prepare the harissa sauce
- If the dried red chilli peppers are whole, remove the stems. You can soak them in warm water for about 30 minutes to soften them.
- In a dry pan over medium heat, toast the caraway seeds, coriander seeds, and cumin seeds until fragrant. Be careful not to burn them.
- Use a spice grinder or mortar and pestle to grind the toasted seeds into a fine powder.
- In a food processor, combine the softened dried chilies, ground spice mixture, minced garlic, tomato paste, olive oil, and lemon juice. Process until you get a smooth paste.
- Taste the harissa and add salt/pepper as needed. You can also adjust the consistency by adding more olive oil if desired.
Garnish and serve
- Garnish the tagine with chopped fresh cilantro before serving. Serve the tagine over couscous or freshly baked flat bread.
- Transfer the harissa sauce to a small bowl and serve it alongside your tagine.
Tagines are very versatile, so feel free to adjust the ingredients and spices to suit your taste preferences. One option would be to replace the lamb with camel meat, which would require 3 hours of simmering to ensure the meat was not too tough. Enjoy your delicious homemade tagine!