Lamb Tagine with Preserved Lemons

by Karin Calloway

My introduction to Moroccan fare was an evening spent sitting on plump floor pillows while platters of steaming delicacies were placed before me on a low table at The Imperial Fez in Atlanta. And, I can think of no better place than this well-known restaurant to become enamored with the complex flavors and heady aromas of this exotic cuisine. Several years later, the gift of an authentic tagine led to evenings of simmering Moroccan feasts of my own.

The lamb dish I ate on that first Moroccan meal was memorable, and I’ve come up with a version that’s flavored with herbs and spices along with citrus in two forms. First, orange zest is added to the herb and spice rub for the lamb pieces and second, preserved lemons are added at the end of cooking adding delicate lemon flavor to the dish.

I like to cook this lamb stew in my tagine on my Viking gas range, and have found that the heat of my Viking is perfect for a long simmer session. The gas flame and tagine covered casserole are such a great pairing that I’ve even used them when preparing Indian fare, as well as my grandmother’s Hungarian Chicken Paprikash.

If you don’t have a tagine, don’t despair! The dish can be prepared in a Dutch oven or baked in a covered casserole at 350 degrees. Served with pita bread or the Spiced Couscous recipe on this site, my hope is that the recipe will make you as much a fan of Moroccan fare as I am.
 

  • 3 pounds boneless lamb stew meat, or 1 boneless leg of lamb cut into 1-inch pieces*
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin 
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger 
  •  1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
  •  Pinch saffron 
  •  1 orange, zested and juiced 
  •  1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves 
  •  3 cloves garlic, minced 
  •  1 teaspoon sea salt 
  •  Olive oil 
  •  2 onions, finely chopped 
  •  1 cup water 
  •  1 cup good green olives 
  •  1 preserved lemon, pith removed and peel cut into thin strips

Place lamb in a zip-top plastic bag. Combine cumin, ginger, cinnamon, saffron, orange zest, cilantro leaves, garlic and salt in a mortar and pestle and mash into a paste. Add orange juice and pour over meat, squeezing to coat all pieces well. Marinate 2 hours to overnight.

Heat a tagine or Dutch oven over medium-high. Drizzle a bit of olive oil in the bottom of the pot and add onion. Sauté until onions are soft and beginning to turn golden. Add meat and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer until the meat is very tender, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours**. Add more water, about 1/2 cup, if the liquid cooks completely away. Add olives and preserved lemon 10 minutes before serving.

Makes 6 servings.

*Skinless chicken pieces may be substituted for the lamb.
**Dish also may be cooked in a 350 degree oven for 1 1/2 to 2 hours

Lamb Tagine with Preserved Lemons

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When autumn arrives we head inside to entertain. It's the perfect time to try a new cuisine, and the fragrant flavors of Moroccan foods are a fun change of pace.