Time for Tagine!
“The gentle art of gastronomy is a friendly one. It hurdles the language barrier, makes friends among civilized people, and warms the heart.”-Samuel Chamberlain
I attempted my first tagine from a cookbook by award-winning Chef James Peterson. It was delicious and nutritious, and I’ve provided the recipe below for you (with a few notes explaining the benefits of certain spices and ingredients, of course).
But first, what’s a tagine?
A tagine (sometimes spelled ‘tajine’), is a dish commonly made in North African countries like Algeria, Libya, Tunisia and Morocco. It’s named after the cone-like pot in which it’s cooked (more on this in a second), but it’s also a method of cooking that combines a mixture of meat or fish, spices, fruit, dried fruit and vegetables to make a stew. The cone shaped design of the tagine pot captures the water that’s evaporated from the food while cooking, and infuses it back into the dish, which keeps it moist. This has a traditional, cultural and geographical significance; trapping the water, rather than adding it, would have been important in places like North Africa where water might have been potentially scarce.
Sadly, I don’t own a tagine for cooking, yet (the one you see in the picture is a decorative tagine gifted to me by friends). So instead I used my Le Creuset braiser, and I think it did a good job. You could probably also use a dutch oven.
Without further a-do, I present you with Lamb Tagine with apricots, almonds and saffron, a recipe adapted from James Peterson’s book, Meat: A Kitchen Education.
- 4 lbs boneless pastured lamb shoulder meat, cut into 1 1/2 inch chunks.
- I emphasize pasture raised or grass fed lamb because it’s higher in the essential healthy fats omega 3’s and CLA. Lamb is also one of the highest sources of B12 an essential vitamin involved many bodily functions. More importantly grass fed lamb raised on pastures live happy lives and contribute to regenerative agriculture.
- Sea Salt
- A few turns of cracked black pepper
- It helps with the digestion of the protein found in the lamb as well as the absorption of the B12.
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 4 Tbsp grass-fed butter
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced and then crushed to a paste
- Crush the garlic cloves and sprinkle a little salt on top and finely mince your garlic. Once minced lay the side of your knife blade over the cloves and smash them down scraping it across the surface of the board. Continue to chop again adding a little more salt and repeat the scraping step with a knife. You should have a paste that you can place in a bowl.
- 3 Tbsp peeled and grated fresh ginger
- 1/2 cayenne pepper or paprika (for less heat).
- Half of a 27oz can of diced tomatoes (Peterson calls for 3 tomatoes but they aren’t in season in my area yet)
- 2 cups broth or water
- Small pinch of saffron threads, soaked in 1 Tbsp hot water for 30 minutes
- You could have probably just tossed the saffron in, which I thought of doing, but James Peterson is the winner of six awards so I didn’t question the technique.
- 1/2 cup toasted almonds
- 3/4 cup diced dried apricots
- Adding fruit to the stew is the great differentiator between what you would call a stew and a Tagine!
- Harissa for a little heat for servingHarissa is hot sauce or paste used in North African cuisine, made from chilli peppers, paprika, and olive oil. I didn’t have any, and it was still delicious, but if you have some – go nuts!)
- Season the lamb all over with sea salt and pepper.
- In a large braiser, dutch over or sauté pan (that has a lid), heat the oil over high heat.
- When the oil begins to crackle, add half of the meat and sear, turning as needed, until well-browned on all sides. Transfer the seared lamb to a plate and repeat with the remaining meat.
- Pour the oil out of the pan and lower to medium-heat. Melt the grass fed butter. Add the onions, garlic, ginger, and paprika and cook stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes, or until the onion softens and caramelizes.
- Return the lamb to the pan and add the tomatoes and broth. Cover and simmer gently for about 2 hours.
- Add the saffron and its soaking water, the almonds, and the apricots. Simmer for about 2 minutes.
- Serve the tagine in warmed soup plates.
- Add harissa as you like. 🙂
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