How To Cook The Best Lamb Tagine

Best Lamb Tagine

The tagine, it seems, is a very adaptable dish, deserving of a whole series of columns. Lamb tagine still aromatic with spice, but altogether stickier and darker and richer. Benkabbou explains in her book Casablanca, there are four main categories of tagine, regardless of the main ingredient: mqualli, with olive oil, turmeric, ginger and saffron; mchermel, with herby, garlicky chermoula; mhammer, with butter, paprika and cumin; and one with tomato, cumin and paprika. “Each can be customised with seasonal vegetables, dried fruits, preserved lemons, olives and nuts”.

Best lamb tagine

Prep 10 min

Cook 2 hr 45 min

Serves 4


2 tbsp olive oil or butter, plus 1 knob extra for frying the almonds
1 large onion, peeled and finely sliced
600g boneless shoulder of mutton, goat or lamb (plus bones, if available), cut into roughly 4cm cubes
200g dates
100g dried apricots
½ tsp ground black pepper
1 small bunch fresh coriander
1 tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp saffron threads, soaked in 2 tbsp warm water
1 cinnamon stick
2 tbsp flaked almonds

Melt the butter or oil in a shallow, heavy-based pan (or, indeed, a tagine) over medium-low heat, then add the onion and cook until soft and golden. Scoop the onion out on to a plate, turn up the heat, then add the meat, in batches, if necessary, and brown well on all sides. Stir the ground spices into the saffron water, then tip into the pot along with the cinnamon stick. Cook briefly until aromatic, then add most of the coriander, half the onion and 300ml cold water, scraping the bottom of the pan to displace any crusty bits of spice or meat.

Add the bones, if you’ve got them, bring to a simmer, then cover tightly. Turn down the heat to very low and cook for about two hours, or until the meat is very tender. Meanwhile, stone the dates, if necessary, and roughly chop with the apricots. Once the meat is soft, fish out the bones, cinnamon and coriander stick, if you can, then add the fruit to the pan and simmer, uncovered, for about 30 minutes more, until you have a thick sauce. In a small frying pan, fry the almonds in hot the butter until toasted, then tip out to cool.

Stir the remaining onions into the tagine, and taste for seasoning. Garnish with the almonds and remaining coriander, roughly chopped, and serve with flatbreads or, if you prefer, hot, buttered couscous.