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Moroccan Lamb and Prune Tagine

Moroccan Lamb and Prune Tagine

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Serves 6 to 8.
By Dennis W. Viau; modified from a Moroccan cookbook.

First of all, tagine simply means a slow-cooked stew made with meat or poultry and spices. Vegetables, olives, and/or dried fruit such as prunes can be added. The flavor is typically rich and spicy. Tagines are often served with couscous, but spooning the stew over cooked rice is an alternative that appeals to me. I like rice.


2 tablespoons olive oil for frying
2 tablespoons butter
1½ pounds (680g) boneless lamb or 6 to 8 lamb shanks
1 large yellow onion; chopped
2 medium cloves garlic; minced
2 cups (475ml) stock (chicken, beef, turkey, vegetable, but not fish); preferably homemade
1 generous pinch saffron threads (or 1/8 teaspoon turmeric)
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 springs fresh coriander (cilantro), tied together
Zest of 1 lemon; divided, preferably in long threads (chiffonade)
Juice of 1 lemon
About 12 ounces (340g) pitted prunes
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon sesame seeds; toasted


Place a heavy-based saucepan/dutch oven over medium-high flame and add the oil and butter. Add the lamb and brown on all sides. Remove lamb to a plate and set aside.

Add the onion and cook until tender and translucent, about 5 minutes. Use a wooden spoon to loosen the fond (all those delicious brown bits) from the bottom of the pan. Add the minced garlic, give it a stir, and then add the stock, saffron, ginger, cinnamon, pepper, and coriander sprigs. Stir well and add the browned lamb. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 1 hour, turning the lamb over after 30 minutes.

Add half the lemon zest (retaining the other half for garnish), cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

Add the lemon juice, prunes, and honey, cover and simmer for an additional 30 minutes, until the lamb is very tender. Meanwhile, toast the sesame seeds in a skillet. Remove and set aside for garnish.

Discard the coriander sprigs (if you can find them). Adjust sauce for salt. Serve hot with couscous or over steamed rice. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds and lemon zest on the side (more for eye appeal than as something to eat).