Pin It This North African stew is named for the traditional dish it is cooked in. A tagine is a clay pot that consists of a shallow round base and a cone shaped lid designed to allow the moisture to flow back down into the base during cooking. The stews known as tagines are oftened thickened and flavored with dried fruit. The recipe here contains apricots, but prunes raisins and dates are also common.
In France, tagines are often accompanied by couscous, while flatbread is more typical in Morocco. I think yellow rice or jasmine rice would also be nice, particularly for a dinner party where some of the guests might not like couscous.
This recipe for Apricot Lamb Tagine uses a wonderful blend of Moroccan spices to season the meat before it is braised and falls apart. Near the end of the cooking, dried fruit and honey are added for a bit of sweetness and red pepper flakes for some heat. The combination of the flavourful slow braised lamb with the spices and the sweet dried fruit and the warmth is simply amazing. It's a wonderful dish to serve at a dinner party, as you can prepare it the day before.
Choosing a wine is the tricky part of this exercise due to the spiciness, sweetness and heat combination in this dish. I frankly prefer a dry rose with character, such as Bandol or Tavel, or a red like a Syrah or Shiraz. Make sure the latter is served at the right temperature (65 degrees) by chilling it a bit in the fridge. 30 minutes should do it. For the right temperature to serve red wines, particularly in the summer click here,
*After I published this post, I asked members of the Wines & Spirits Group at Linkedin to weigh in with their recommendations. This is what they came up with.
The Bellini Sorbetto with Amaretti Cookies would be a nice dessert.
Makes 4 servings
2 tsps paprika
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 pinches of saffron
3 1/2 cups of water
1 teaspoon lemon (zest)
2 1/2 pound lamb stew meat*
3 tablespoon oil
1 onion (chopped)
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon ginger (grated)
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoons tomato paste
1 TB honey
1 beef cube
6 oz dried apricots
1/2 cup raisins
red pepper flakes to taste
1/2 cup slivered onions
1. Mix the paprika, turmeric, cumin, coriander, cardamom, salt, cayenne pepper, lemon zest and oil in a ziplock bag. Add the lamb, mix well and marinate in the fridge for a few hours to overnight.
2. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Stir the saffron into the water in a small saucepan and set aside for 10 minutes, then just heat to simmer (saffron is not soluble in oil so you must first soak it in water to release flavors).
3. Heat the oil in a large dutch oven.
4. Add the lamb, brown well on all sides and set aside.
5. Add the onion and saute until tender, about 5 minutes.
6. Add the garlic and ginger and saute for about a minute.
7. Add the lamb, tomato paste, the bay leaf, cinnamon sticks and cover with the saffron water. Add bouillon cube.
8. Bring to a boil, cover, put in the oven and cook for about 1 hour 30 minutes or until the lamb is almost tender. Halfway through skim fat and turn lamb pieces over so they cook more evenly.
9. Add the honey. Add the apricots and raisins, submerge them and continue cooking covered until the apricots fall apart and the sauce thickens, about another 30 minutes. If the sauce hasn't thickened, remove the lid. You can also mash some of the apricots to help the sauce thicken, or dissolve 1 tsp. corn starch in water (if all else fails) and add to the stew.
10. Discard the bay leaf and cinnamon sticks, add more salt and red pepper flakes (or harissa) if necessary.
11. Add the slivered almonds and parsley to garnish.
12. Serve with couscous on the side. You can also serve with yellow rice.
*Harissa is a fiery blend of hot chiles, garlic, spices and olive oil that is often used to embolden stews and other African dishes. It is available in Middle Eastern and specialty stores. For me its a bit over the top but if you have the fortitude, go for it! Below is a photo of a tagine.