A tagine is an important part of Moroccan cuisine and has been a part of the culture for hundreds of years.
The word tagine actually has two meanings. First, it refers to a type of North African cookware traditionally made of clay or ceramic. The bottom is a wide, shallow circular dish used for both cooking and serving, while the top of the tagine is distinctively shaped into a rounded dome or cone.
Second, the word tagine also refers to the succulent, stew-like dish which is slow-cooked in the traditional cookware. Typically, a tagine is a rich mixture of meat, poultry, or fish, and most often includes vegetables or fruit. Vegetables may also be cooked alone in the tagine.
Most people agree that the tagine’s origin dates back to the late 18th century when Harun al Rashid ruled the Islamic Empire. However, there is another school of thought that the use of ceramics in Moroccan cooking is probably of Roman influence; Romans were known for their ceramics and likely brought that tradition to their rule of Roman Africa. Either way, the first appearance of recipes cooked tagine-style appeared in the 9th century in the publication The Thousand and One Nights.
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp ground black pepper
1½ tbsp paprika
1½ tbsp ground ginger
1 tbsp turmeric
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1.1kg cubed lamb shoulder
2 large onions, grated
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp argan oil
3 cloves garlic, crushed
570ml tomato juice
2 x 400g tinned chopped tomatoes
115gdried apricots, cut in half
55g dates, cut in half
55g sultanas or raisins
85g flaked almonds
1 tsp saffron stamens, soaked in cold water
600ml lamb stock
1 tbsp clear honey
2 tbsp coriander, roughly chopped
2 tbsp flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
1 – Place the cayenne, black pepper, paprika, ginger, turmeric and cinnamon into a small bowl and mix to combine. Place the lamb in a large bowl and toss together with half of the spice mix. Cover and leave overnight in the fridge.
2 – Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas2.
3 – Heat 1 tbsp olive oil and 1 tbsp of argan (or vegetable) oil in a large casserole dish. Add the grated onion and the remaining spice mix and cook over a gentle heat for 10 minutes so that the onions are soft but not coloured. Add the crushed garlic for the final 3 minutes.
4 – In a separate frying pan, heat the remaining oil and brown the cubes of lamb on all sides then add the browned meat to the casserole dish. De-glaze the frying pan with ¼ pint of tomato juice and add these juices to the pan.
5 – Add the remaining tomato juice, chopped tomatoes, apricots, dates, raisins or sultanas, flaked almonds, saffron, lamb stock and honey to the casserole dish. Bring to the boil, cover with a fitted lid, place in the oven and cook for 2-2½ hours or until the meat is meltingly tender.
6 – Place the lamb in a tagine or large serving dish and sprinkle over the chopped herbs. Serve.