Lamb Tagine
About 6 servings
You can substitute chicken for the lamb. Cut it into 8 pieces and reduce the oven time to about 1 to 1½ hours. I also like to add a handful, say about 1/2 cup (75g) toasted, blanched almonds to the stew during the final 30 minutes of braising, or some green olives. Another option is to add prunes or dried California apricots, which add a sublime sweetness. I used to add strips of salty preserved lemons, but I’d always wake up in the middle of the night ravenously thirsty and have to chug a few liters of water, so now I don’t anymore.Often Tagines are served with big hunks of softly-baked bread sprinkled with anise seeds, I prepare cracked wheat or bulgur to serve underneath with a bit of chopped parsley added at the end. I’ve find it preferable to bread of couscous since it’s a whole grain and the fabulously nutty and crunchy grains are really a delightful chew. And so guests can customize their Tagine, I pass little dishes of plumped yellow raisins, homemade sweet shallot marmalade, and chick peas.
1 lamb shoulder, cut into 6 pieces (have the butcher do it)
Vegetable oil
1 medium onion minced
1 1/2 cups (375ml) chicken stock, or water
1 teaspoon dried ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt, plus more if necessary
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
2 cinnamon sticks
freshly-ground black pepper
1 bunch cilantro, rinsed and tied with a string, coriandre
20 threads of saffron
juice of 1/2 lemon
Up to three days before you plan to make the Tagine, massage the lamb shoulder with the salt and let it sit in the refrigerator before you cook it.
To make the Tagine, in a heavy-duty Dutch oven, heat a few tablespoons of oil and sear the lamb pieces very well, turning them only after they’re nicely dark, browned, and crusty (this helps add flavor to the Tagine.) As you cook them, don’t crowd ’em in. If your Dutch oven isn’t big enough to cook them all in a single layer at once, brown the lamb pieces in batches.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (175 C). Once the lamb is browned, add the onions and some of the stock, then scrape the bottom of the pan with a flat wooden spatula to release the flavorful browned bits. Add the remaining stock, then the spices, the bunch of cilantro, and the saffron.
Cover the pan and bake in the oven for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, turning the lamb over in the liquid a few times during the oven-braising. The liquid should just be steaming-hot and simmering gently. If it’s boiling, turn down the heat (some Dutch ovens conduct heat differently.) When the meat starts to fall apart easily, that’s when it’s ready. It’s hard to overcook lamb shoulder, so even an extra hour or so in the oven won’t hurt it.
Remove the lid and let the Tagine remain in the oven for another 30 minutes, so the juices reduce, becoming rich and savory.

To serve, remove the cilantro and discard. Squeeze some lemon juice into the liquid and add more salt if you think it needs it. Serve mounds of cracked wheat underneath the Tagine, with lots of the juices poured over. At the table, make sure you have a tube of harissa handy, the fire-y Moroccan hot sauce, for those of us who like spicy food, as I do.