Need a change of pace at the dinner table before all the holiday fare? Have I got a good one for you. My idea of comfort food via Morocco is definitely a tagine. A slow simmered meal that allows everything inside the pot to meld into a tender and succulent dinner. This Lamb Tagine with Dates and Apricots delivers… big time.
Typically cooked in a tagine, a ceramic, cone shape topped cooking vessel, any casserole or baking dish that you can cover will do just fine. It’s the flavors that are most important here.
My original tagine cracked and was no more in a wet handed kitchen mishap. My new, hand-painted, large 12-inch replacement rocks the kitchen now. The previous was a smaller, 9-inch one and I always thought it was too tight, not enough food real estate in there. I consistently had to cut up the chicken instead keeping it whole.
Just once I wanted to lift that cone shaped lid to reveal to guests an entire roasted chicken. Now I can! But the other night I wanted lamb. Lamb is incredibly flavorful and not used nearly enough here in the USA, so I am hoping by posting more and more lamb recipes here you guys will give it more thought.
Lamb simmered in a wonderful mix of onions, garlic, saffron and cinnamon. Instead of the original recipe I like to swap out the prunes for dates. With tangy apricots, orange peel and honey added to the sauce, this is a stand out meal with lots of the aromatic sauce to mop up with bread or pita of choice.
I add a little Ras el Hanout, a Moroccan spice blend at the end of cooking to the sauce. It adds a lovely complexity to the sauce. This is completely optional as this dish stands alone without it.
If you are a follower of the site here you know I love to make my own spice blends and have supplied a link to making it yourself if you so choose. Ras el Hanout is an outrageously aromatic spice blend and while I hope you venture to make your own, if you can’t find all the individual spices the easiest solution is to find a ready made version at any Middle Eastern or North African store or online. One of these days I am going to put out my own line of spice blends. Some day…
No pan searing of meat prior, all of this is made right in your tagine, or casserole baking dish of choice. Just be sure to place your heat diffuser on the stove burner first before putting your ceramic tagine on, it can’t have direct flame as it will damage your tagine.
The coriander, cinnamon and saffron mixed with the onion, garlic and almonds simmer and the lamb is beyond tender. So delicious and the sweet, exotic sauce this creates with the dates and apricots is topped off with a dose of honey and chopped cilantro.
A healthy helping of some Almond Couscous with Pomegranate made this Lamb Tagine with Dates and Apricots one I would gladly serve guests as well. Enjoy!
- 1 tbsp olive oil and 1 tbsp butter See Note 1
- 2 tbsp blanched almond slivers
- 2 red onions diced
- 3 cloves garlic smashed and diced
- 2 tbsp ginger paste
- pinch of saffron threads
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 2 tsp coriander seeds crushed
- 1 lb lamb cubed shoulder or leg
- 8 dates seeded
- 8 apricots
- 4 strips of orange peel
- 2 tbsp honey
- 1/2 tsp of Ras el Hanout optional
- kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper
- Heat the butter and oil in a tagine or heavy casserole baking dish. Stir in the almonds and sauté until golden. Add the diced onions and garlic, stir and cook over low heat until golden. Stir in the ginger paste, saffron, cinnamon sticks and coriander seeds. Add the cubed lamb pieces and stir to make sure everything is coated with the onion and spices. Sauté for 4 minutes.
- Next pour enough water in to cover the meat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 1 hour or until meat is tender.
- Add the dates, apricots and orange peel, stir to mix and cover. Simmer for 20 minutes.
- Stir in the honey and ras-el-hanout (optional) and simmer another 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. The sauce should be syrupy. If it is too watery, allow to simmer and thicken with lid off for 5 minutes, or add some water if necessary.
- Top with chopped cilantro and serve along side couscous and bread of choice.