Moroccan Lamb Tagine with Dates and Almonds with Cinnamon-Scented Couscous
I love having a food blog because it chronicles what I eat. And so I know this to be true.
This is monumental: I made my second meat dish since I started the blog!
(The first being sinfully delicious German beef rolls).
I am not vegetarian, but mainly prepare vegetarian dishes at home. I love fish, so that definitely prevents me from becoming a vegetarian. I have been going through many Middle Eastern cookbooks and food blogs, and was itching to make a tagine. Slow-simmered meat with savoury ingredients sounded really good and I have yet to come across a good vegetarian alternative yet. Claudia Roden’s Moroccan Lamb Tagine with Dates and Almonds screamed out at me. “Make me!”, it said.
I obviously have a thing or two to learn about cooking meat, though.
So what does boned mean? I figured deboned meant meat without a bone, and boned meant with a bone.
When I went to buy 3 lb of boned lamb shoulder for the tagine, I bought bone-in lamb shoulder. That’s what the recipe says, right? Well, when I came home, my mom was not pleased. It was $18 but that wasn’t what displeased her. Boned lamb means WITHOUT bones. Gah! Thankfully she helped rid the excess fat and bone so it was ready for the tagine.
Technically a tagine is made in a tagine clay pot and Roden explains in Arabesque that a lidded, heavy-bottomed casserole or stainless steel pan is preferred for making a tagine. I feel that a large wide pan is preferred so you have a single layer of meat and this limits the amount of water needed to cover the meat to allow it to simmer. This water is completely reduced by the end, producing a thick, rich sauce. My pot was a bit narrow so we had a lot of liquid. We ended up taking out the meat and boiling the heck out of the sauce.. I mean we reduced the sauce over high heat.
After nearly 2 hours of simmering and sputtering, sometimes being watched, oftentimes not, we were able to enjoy this succulent lamb tagine. It was wonderful. The lamb was melt-in-your-mouth and the cinnamon, honey and dates made a delicious sweet and savoury sauce. Roasted almonds add the finishing crunch.
As a side to the tagine, we served couscous. But this wasn’t any couscous. I always thought you made couscous by adding boiling water, covering for 10 minutes and then fluffing it with a fork. I always found it bland and dry, so I was hoping to spruce things up a bit. I noticed Roden had a different way of preparing basic couscous, including a 15-20 minute bake in the oven, and when I stumbled upon a spiced couscous side at Confessions of a Cardamom Addict, I also added in cinnamon and raisins to the mixture. It was definitely not bland and dry. It was mighty tasty.
Together, we had a winning combo.
If anyone has a recommendation for a great vegetable tagine, I am all ears.
Moroccan Lamb Tagine with Dates and Almonds (Tagine Bil Tmar Wal Loz)
3 pounds boned shoulder or neck fillet of lamb
4 tbsp butter or vegetable oil
2 onions, finely chopped
1/2 tsp saffron threads
1/2 tsp ground ginger
salt and plenty of black pepper
1 cinnamon stick
1-2 tbsp honey (optional, I used 1 tbsp)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 3/4 cups dates, pitted (I used dried)
To garnish: 1/2 cup blanched almonds, 3 tbsp sesame seeds (optional)
1. Trim any excess fat from the lamb and cut into 6-8 pieces (serving sized). Heat the butter or 3 tbsp oil in a large pan, put in the meat and brown it lightly all over. Take out the meat, put in the onions and cook, stirring, until the begin to colour. Stir in the saffron and ginger and return the meat to the pan. Add salt and pepper and the cinnamon stick. Cover with water and simmer, covered, for 60-90 minutes, or until the meat is very tender, turning the pieces occasionally.
2. Stir in honey, if using, ground cinnamon and pepper (it is needed to counterbalance the sweetness). Move the meat around so the honey and cinnamon is spread around. Cook until the sauce is reduced, turning the meat over as you wait. Add the dates and cook 5-10 minutes more.
3. Fry the almonds in the remaining butter, or toast in a non-stick pan, until lightly golden. Add as a garnish when plating tagine.
2 cups couscous
1/2 cup raisins
1 cinnamon stick
2 cups vegetable broth, nearly boiling
2 tbsp oil
1. Preheat oven to 400F.
2. Place couscous in an ovenproof dish. Mix in raisins and cinnamon stick. Gradually add in the hot broth over the couscous. Stir vigorously to remove any lumps. Cover the bowl with a lid or plastic wrap and let the couscous swell for 10 minutes.
3. Mix in the oil. Fluff the couscous apart with your hands or a fork, to make sure all grains are separated. This is the important step.
4. Heat the couscous in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, or until it begins to steam.