Sunday, August 2, 2009

Dinner in Marrakesh...Apricot Lamb Tagine

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
or Harissa*
1/2 cup slivered onions
Chopped parsley


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.

Lamb and Apricot Tagine on Foodista


  1. Just today, we were in a great cooking store in the Netherlands and had a lengthy discussion with friends about using a tagine. This blog post may just inspire me to try it myself. Thanks!

  2. Greetings, it is possible to get an Algerian wine. Be sure to consult a professional, as these wines can be highly acidic, not so well balanced. Of course, people have been eating North African food with French, Spanish, and Italian wines for centuries. You might consider a red blend from Corbieres, one of the largest and most southerly wine sub-regions in France. The vineyards of Corbieres hug the Mediterranean coast. The typical varietals in a Corbieres blend are the same as those in a Cote du Rhone, and the wines tend to be full-bodied. I love a good Corbieres because you can taste the Mediterranean sunshine, and it really stimulates the appetite. The French are experts at blending these wines to pair with all manner of Mediterranean cuisines, including North African style dishes. Several North African states were French colonies for centuries, so the cuisines and winemaking of both areas are intimately connected.

    Within my area of particular expertise, I would pair this with the 2007 Sangiovese from Village of Elgin Winery in the Sonoita, AZ AVA. That is a fantastic, natural wine with the same touch of sunshine. It is a little lighter than most Corbieres blends, very well balanced, with a hint of sweetness that will really bring out the dried fruit in this dish.
    Good luck!
    Abby Wine
    Southwest Wine Travel Examiner

  3. Thank you so much. im sure this is a big help to readers of my blog. the Corbieres makes a lot of sense. I will post your comments under a new post tomorrow!

  4. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



Thank you for visiting Lindaraxa. Your comments are much appreciated.

Pin It button on image hover