My hand-painted tagine has been a decorative piece in our dining room but has never served as a cooking vessel as it was meant to do — until tonight. Finally I seasoned it, invested in a little diffuser to use on a flame-top stove, and improvised on a recipe from the Bon Appétit archives. We all loved how aromatic and sweetly spiced (but not spicy!) the sauce was, infused with apricots, ginger, and a ras-el-hanout blend (coriander, cumin, cinnamon and turmeric, among other spices). The lamb, after 2 hours of slow simmering, was spoon-tender and luscious. I used leg of lamb, but lamb shoulder or even beef would also work great in this recipe; and although the funnel-shaped tagine helps keep the moisture circulating inside, you could easily cook this in a Dutch oven or other pot and just increase the amount of broth for the sauce. I served the sauce over couscous with raisins and some toasted pine nuts to give it some crunchy texture. This Moroccan-inspired dish is perfect for a cold winter evening with family or a small gathering of friends. Enjoy!
Lamb and Apricot Tagine
(Adapted roughly from Bon Appetit‘s October 2011 recipe, “Lamb Tagine with Chickpeas and Apricots”)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 1/2 pounds lamb shoulder or leg of lamb cut into 1-inch cubes (I used leg of lamb, cut it into cubes and had a large piece leftover with a bone that I also browned with the cubes and added to the center of the tagine for simmering)
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 large onion, diced
- 3 garlic cloves (2 whole, 1 minced)
- 1 large cinnamon stick, broken in half
- 1 tablespoon Ras-el-Hanout spice blend
- 2 teaspoons grated peeled fresh ginger
- 1 cup canned diced tomatoes with juices
- 1 1/2 cups chicken stock (more or less, to cover the lamb) for the tagine sauce, plus 2 cups more for the couscous
- About 8 halved dried unsulfured apricots
- 2 cups couscous
- 1/2 cup raisins (golden or dark)
- 1/2 cup pine nuts
- olive oil & salt
- 1 handful chopped fresh cilantro
Equipment: skillet(s), tagine with diffuser (or use a Dutch oven or other pot and increase the broth in the sauce to 2 1/2 cups)
- Heat oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Season lamb with salt and pepper. Working in batches, brown lamb on all sides, about 4 minutes per batch. Transfer lamb to a medium bowl. Add onion to skillet; reduce heat to medium, season with salt and pepper, and sauté until soft and beginning to turn golden, about 5 minutes, while using a wooden spoon to scrape off any browned bits from the pan. Add minced garlic, Ras-el-Hanout , and ginger. Stir for 1 minute. Add tomatoes and stir until incorporated; turn off the heat.
- On another (cool) burner, set up the tagine over the diffuser and transfer the browned lamb and any juices from the bowl to the tagine. Set the flame on low and slowly heat up the tagine. Add the contents of the skillet, the cinnamon stick, and the 2 whole cloves of garlic to the tagine and slowly heat up to a boil. Add 1 1/2 cups warm stock, or just enough to cover the meat. Return to a boil, reduce heat to low, place the cover over the tagine, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until lamb is tender, about 1 1/2 hours.
- Skim any accumulated fat off the top of the sauce and discard. Stir in apricots and continue simmering for about 20 minutes. Uncover the tagine, skim off any more fat, remove the cinnamon stick pieces, and let it simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes more. Taste and season with salt and pepper if necessary.
- In the last 10 minutes of cooking, prepare couscous. Let the raisins soak for 5 minutes in 2 cups of the warm chicken broth in a medium bowl, then add the 2 cups of couscous and cover the bowl with wrap; let it sit for 5 minutes. In a small skillet, heat a tablespoon of olive oil and a generous sprinkling of sea salt and brown the pine nuts. Fluff the couscous with a fork and pour in the browned pine nuts with the oil, fluffing again lightly.
- Scoop couscous into bowls, spoon the tagine sauce on top and sprinkle fresh chopped cilantro over it.