I have made and served lamb tagine to thousands of customers for over the last decade. Quite by accident it became my signature dish and we have been linked together forever! I used to have dreams about lamb tagine, I made it so often – and yet, I never tire of making this fragrant dish.
I love the whole process of putting together my spice mix, browning the meat and finally enjoying the big “tah dah” as I remove the tagine cover and the first whiff of pure “heaven” wafts through the air. (I had a waiter who told me that I should come up with a lamb tagine scented candle.) While not a Persian dish, the exotic flavors will instantly take you to the Middle East. I like to call this dish “Middle Eastern comfort food.”
Serves 6+ For the lamb
3 pounds lamb shoulder cut into 2 inch cubes
6 medium carrots-peeled and cut into large dice
2 large Spanish onions-peeled and diced2 fennel bulbs diced, reserve fronds for garnish
8 large cloves garlic-chopped
½ cup halved pitted dates
½ cup halved dried figs½ cup halved dried apricots
2 heaping tablespoons tomato paste
Moroccan spice mix doubled (see below)
2 tablespoons Charnushka*
3-4 cups chicken stock
Suggested garnishes: preserved lemons, sliced into julienne chopped cilantro and harissa Pre heat oven to 325
- Place the lamb chunks on a sheet pan or cutting board. Pat dry the meat to ensure browning. Season the lamb with salt and pepper. Brown the lamb in batches in a large sauté pan coated with olive oil over medium. Transfer the browned lamb to a tagine or Dutch oven. Brown the vegetables in batches in the same pan. Be sure to scrape up any browned bits left behind from the lamb. Transfer the vegetables to a tagine. Lightly sauté the garlic until it is fragrant (about 1 minute). Be sure not to brown the garlic.
- Add the remaining ingredients to the tagine. Cover and cook for 3 hours until the lamb is tender and the sauce has thickened.
Garnish with preserved lemons and chopped cilantro, and pass harissa. Lamb tagine can be made and stored, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 2 days before serving or frozen for up to 1 month.
*Charnushka is also called black caraway, nigella and kalonji. It is sometimes found on the crust of dark rye bread. It has a slightly smoky, pungent flavor. It is NOT the same as black cumin. Charnushka is commonly found in Middle Eastern cuisines as well as Indian spice mixes such as Garam Masala.l It available on line at The Spice House and at many gourmet food stores
Moroccan Spice Mix
2 2 inch cinnamon sticks
1 T. whole coriander seeds
1 t. cumin seeds
1t. crushed red chilies
½ t. fenugreek
½ t. anise seeds
1 cardamom pod
1 T. dark brown sugar (optional)
1. Place all the ingredients in a spice grinder or coffee grinder and process until completely ground. Store covered at room temperature for up to 6 weeks.
½ cup of dried chili flakes
1 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 clove of garlic-peeled
¼ t. ground cumin
1 T. lemon juice
Salt and pepper
1. Place a small sauce pan over high heat and bring about 1 cup of water to a boil. 2. Remove from heat and add the chili flakes to the water to re-hydrate them. Let the chili flakes steep for 5 minutes. 3. Drain the flakes into a mesh colander. 4. Place the chili flakes and the rest of the ingredients into a blender. Process the harissa until the mixture resembles a smooth paste. Salt and pepper as needed.
½ cup shelled pistachios
½ cup shelled walnut pieces
¾ sliced almonds2 cups sugar + ¼ cup sugar
1 cup water
½ cup honey
1 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
3 ounces almond paste (marzipan)
7 sheets phyllo
About ¼ cup canola oil or melted butter for dairy meal
Preheat oven to 350
- Place all the nuts on an ungreased cookie sheet. Lightly toast the nuts until they are golden brown. Let cool.
- Transfer the nuts to a food processor, add the ¼ cup of sugar and pulse until the nuts are slightly ground but chunks remain.
- Transfer the nuts to a mixing bowl. Break up the almond paste with your fingers and mix it into the nuts.
- Place the water, remaining sugar, honey, star anise and cinnamon stick in a medium saucepan. Bring the mixture to a simmer and turn off.
- Place a sheet of phyllo on a cutting board or work surface. Lightly brush the phyllo with canola oil. Place a second sheet on top of the prepared sheet and lightly brush it with oil. Continue in this manner until all sheets are brushed.
- Place the nuts on the prepared phyllo and spread them to cover the bottom 2/3 of the phyllo. Roll the phyllo away from and press down to form a slightly flattened log.
- Place the log on a baking sheet. Score the baklava with a sharp knife every 1 ½ inches. Brush the baklava with the remaining oil. Bake for 15-20 minutes until lightly browned. Pour the hot syrup over the baklava and allow the syrup to penetrate the cut pieces and drip down the sides.
- Cool thoroughly before serving
Photo from Whole Foods.