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Monday, April 25, 2011

A Moroccan Easter Feast: Lamb and Fennel Tagine


A couple of weeks before my birthday in March, I told my husband that I was on the lookout for a tagine.  And not just any tagine, but a traditionally decorated clay tagine.  He replied, "Really?" And I went on to explain that perhaps I would start a clay vessel collection.  I already have a cazuela from Spain and a baeckoeffe turine from France.  I thought the next addition should be a tagine.  Lo and behold, guess what I got for my birthday--the beautiful tagine in these photos!  And the funny part is that he had already ordered it before I mentioned I wanted one.  He's quite a husband!  :-)

The beautiful Moroccan tagine
I hadn't had time to make anything in it, but we thought that Easter would be the perfect time to test it out.  And let me tell you, this little clay vessel can cook a mean stew.  The lamb practically melted in our mouths.  According to the Moroccan cookbook that my husband also gave me, you can create a tagine (which also can mean the stew) in a dutch oven or pot with a heavy lid, but dutch ovens can't beat a traditional tagine's beauty--it brought a certain elegance to our table that is often missing with a four year old and an 11 month old.


I served this tagine with a traditional bed of couscous and some Moroccan carrots on the side.  (I'll post about these later this week.)  This is definitely a time consuming, if simple, dish to make, so plan accordingly--but I'll be looking for every excuse I can to use this special birthday gift!


Lamb and Fennel Tagine
Adapted from Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco
Serves 6-8 easily


1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup grated onion
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
3/4 tsp ground ginger
Pinch of saffron
1/4 tsp turmeric
2 1/2 to 3 pounds lamb shoulder, cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks and trimmed of excess fat

1 clove garlic, smashed1/4 cup chopped cilantro, plus more for garnish
4 small fennel bulbs
1 preserved lemon, or one lemon plus 1 Tbl olive oil, 1 tsp salt, and 1 tsp sugar
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and halved
1/8 cup lemon juice

In the base of a tagine or a dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.  (If using a tagine, make sure to use a diffuser.)  Saute the onions until translucent.  Add the salt, pepper, ginger, saffron and turmeric and stir for one minute.  Add the lamb, garlic, cilantro and one cup of water and stir well.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer over medium to low heat (keep at just a simmer) for 1 1/2 hours.  Stir every so often and add water if necessary.

While the lamb is cooking, prepare the lemons if you do not have preserved lemon.  Slice the lemon into thin rounds.  Heat about one tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat in a non-stick skillet.  Add the lemon slices and one teaspoon each of salt and sugar.  Cook, stirring often, until the lemons soften and start to brown, about 20 minutes.  Remove from the heat and set aside.  (If using preserved a preserved lemon, quarter the lemon.)

Trim the tops off of the fennel bulbs and quarter them lengthwise.  Cut into 1-2 inch pieces.  Add to the lamb after it has cooked 1 1/2 hours.  Cook, covered, for 10 minutes.  Add the lemons, olives and lemon juice and stir well.  Cook, covered, for another 10 minutes or until the fennel is tender.  Taste and add salt or pepper to taste.

Serve in the tagine or in a large bowl with couscous.  Serve hot.
Although my 11 month old doesn't understand the concept of an elegant Easter dinner, he sure did enjoy it!


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17 comments:

Peggy April 25, 2011 at 4:54 PM  

That tagine is gorgeous! Your husband definitely knows your style very well! This Easter dinner sounds really delicious too!

Bonnie April 26, 2011 at 10:45 AM  

Wow, this sounds great! Kudos to Ian for husbandly insight! And the photo at the end is the perfect finishing touch! ;-)

Shannon Marie April 27, 2011 at 11:08 AM  

I've wanted one of these cooking vessels since I lived in France. This looks delicious. However we don't like lamb. Do you think we could make this with beef?

Mindy April 27, 2011 at 11:21 AM  

Shannon Marie, I think you can make it with whatever cut of meat you'd like. :-) I've seen several recipes for chicken as well. I think our next adventure will be with chicken. It's great for tough cuts as it tenderizes as it cooks.

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