Lamb Tagine is one of those dishes I have been trying to perfect over the years. I love lamb and I love spice, so it should be a no brainer really, I should love making Lamb Tagine. Sadly, any recipe I have tried in the past has let me down. The problem might be that I don’t have a very sweet tooth and all of the recipes had honey or too much fruit in them for my liking.
I was at a school last month – in case you didn’t already know! – and I finally made a lamb tagine that I really liked. So I used this as my base and took it from there. Then when I was buying the meat my butcher was chatting about what I was using it for and gave me some lamb bones to add to it for extra flavour. This is why you should use a good butcher, they will be a mine of information on how you can make your dish better. The bones really added such a depth of flavour to the sauce. You don’t have to use them but they are free and if you are using a bought stock they will make a huge difference.
I don’t use dates because I don’t really like them, feel free to add them to yours. If you want to make it meat free, add chickpeas, carrots, peppers or sweet potatoes instead of the lamb.
And yes I know, technically a tagine refers to the dish it is cooked in, but indulge me here a little!
Useful tips & links:
- As with these types of dishes, this will taste better the day after you make it. Allow the flavours in the cooked dish to develop overnight and then simply reheat before serving.
- You can add the turmeric with the rest of the spices but as it stains everything I like to add it directly to the pot just before the liquids go in.
- The flour helps the sauce to thicken but if you want to make the dish gluten free leave it out. You need to make sure your stock is gluten free too.
- This dish can be served with rice, bread or with couscous. I served it here with my Harissa Couscous which really complements the flavours.
- For alternative recipes for Lamb Tagine, have a look at Caroline’s on Bibliocook or Aoife’s on Babaduck
- Olive oil
- Lamb bones (optional)
- 600g of lamb neck fillet or shoulder, trimmed and cubed
- 1 tsp of ground cumin
- 1 tsp of ras el hanout spice mix
- ½ tsp of smoked paprika
- ½ tsp of ground coriander
- Some salt and ground black pepper
- ½ tsp of dried red chilli flakes
- Some cold water
- 1 large onion, peeled and finely diced
- 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
- 1 tsp of turmeric
- ½ a butternut squash, peeled and cubed
- 1 tbsp of plain flour
- 300ml of hot chicken stock
- 4 tomatoes – approx 225g – peeled, seeds removed and diced.
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp of tomato puree
- 100g of dried apricots
- A squeeze of lemon juice
- Fresh coriander leaves
- Toasted flaked almonds
- First you need to make sure you have the right pan to make this. I use a 23cm shallow cast iron casserole dish that has a tight fitting lid. It holds the whole dish, snugly.
- Heat the pan over a medium heat and add in the bones. Brown the bones on each side over a medium heat. You don’t need to be too fussy for this just make sure you don’t burn them. Remove from the pan, set the bones to one side and drain off most of the fat. Put the pan back on a low-medium heat.
- While the bones are browning, put the cumin, ras el hanout, smoked paprika, coriander, chilli flakes and some salt and pepper in to a bowl and mix well together.
- Cube the lamb shoulder into pieces about 2.5-3cm in size. My cubes were a little smaller than I would like but I think bigger is better. Add the lamb into the spice mix and too it through to coat all of the meat well in the spices.
- Brown the meat gently in the pan with the fat in it. If you have the heat too high the spices will burn while the lamb browns and you don’t want this. You just want to brown the outside lightly, you don’t need to cook the lamb through. Do this in batches so that the pan is not too crowded and remove the browned meat to a plate.
- Next you need to deglaze the pan. This simply means adding a cold liquid into a pot where meat has been cooking to pick up all the lovely bits that are lodged on the bottom of the pan. It will keep the lovely flavour from these pieces without them getting burnt.
- So to do this, pour in a large splash of cold water into the pan while it is still on the heat. Use a wooden spoon or spatula to scrape up all of the bits of meat and spice on the bottom and pour this liquid into a bowl and set it to one side.
- Wipe out the pan with some kitchen paper and put it back on a low-medium heat. Add about a tablespoon of olive oil and add the onions. Allow them to sweat or cook gently until they are soft and translucent but not taking on any colour. Some recipes will tell you this take 5 minutes, it usually take 10-15 minutes depending on the size of the onion pieces.
- When the onions are cooked add the crushed garlic and cook for another minute. Add the diced squash and sprinkle over the turmeric.
- Put the browned lamb meat and the bones back into the pan and sprinkle over the flour. Give it a good stir to coat everything in the flour. Then add the chicken stock, cinnamon, bay leaves and tomato puree.
- Check the liquid in the bowl that you deglazed from the pan. If it tastes anyway burnt, don’t use it. If it tastes good, skim any fat from the top and discard this, then pour the liquid into the tagine.
- Prep the tomatoes, I did not peel them for this dish as I don’t mind the peel but do if you would like it more refined. Add them to the pan and then give everything a good stir. Turn up the heat and allow it to come to a boil.
- Once it has reached boiling point, turn the heat down so that the tagine is simmering and cover with the lid. Allow it to simmer for about 30 minutes, f using neck fillet. Lamb shoulder takes far longer, I leave it alone simmering for at least 2 hours when using shoulder meat.
- Cut the apricots to the size you like but there is nothing wrong with leaving them whole. I don’t think there is any need to pre-soak them. Add them to the dish and stir through. Simmer for another 20 minutes.
- After this time, check the lamb to see if it is cooked. You want it falling apart when you cut through it. If it is not ready allow it to simmer a bit longer. If however, the lamb is cooked but the sauce is not thick enough, you can pour it all through a sieve, put the sauce back on the heat and turn it up to allow it to thicken before putting the meat and veg back in. If the sauce is too thick then add some water to thin it a bit.
- At this point you can take the casserole off the heat and allow it to cool. Then store it overnight in the fridge.
- If there was much fat on the bones or meat, this will have melted into the sauce and solidified on top over night. Scrape off this excess fat and remove the bones from the sauce before putting it back on the heat. Discard the bones.
- Heat it all gently and taste the sauce. Add a squeeze of lemon juice just to lift it. Remove the cinnamon stick and bay leaves. Season with salt and pepper if needed or even a little more chilli if you like. Stir through some fresh coriander although you can just leave it out if you hate the stuff.
- Again I like to sprinkle coriander on top but feel free to leave it out. I also toast a few flaked almonds to add crunch and serve it on my harissa couscous. You can top with some natural yogurt, maybe with a little harissa twirled through the yogurt. Alternatively top with pomegranate seeds or make a jam out of red onions and pomegranate molasses to add extra sweetness if you like.