Letting myself down – No tagine Lamb Tagine

A couple of months ago, my good friend P put himself on a gourmet cookery course. This was a major step for him, he being a ‘can’t boil an egg’ kind of guy. P is also what the female of the species would call “A typical man.” He is not big on chit-chat. He hides a veritable candelabra of lights under his bushel. So, while we were supping a pint or three of Guinness in our local, the Galloping Green, it surprised me, in fact it shocked me, when he said that he had cooked a Lamb Tagine as part of his course. The shock was three-fold. Fold one was that he had been on a cookery course. Fold two was that he had admitted to being there. Fold three was that he actually cooked something excellent (his wife told me). My reaction was not what it should have been. I let myself down.

I asked P where he bought his tagine. “My what?” was his reply. “Your tagine” I said in petty triumph. I then went on to pontificate (Boy, can I pontificate.) about the origins of the tagine and how P could not have cooked a Lamb Tagine because he did it in a casserole dish. I really can be an idiot when I try.

So, in a pathetic effort to assuage my guilt and remorse for my unacceptable behaviour, I undertook to cook a No Tagine Lamb Tagine. If you want to try it, you are going to need a raft of stuff. I photographed everything. Everything except the carrots, the stock, the raisins, the dried apricots and the cornflour that is. How do I manage to make a list, check everything off the list and still miss so many things? It’s a good thing that this is not my day job.

Proof that I actually had carrots. I had the other stuff too. I swear I did.

Here’s the complete list (I think):

  • 2 lamb shoulders, trimmed and cubed. Don’t trim all the fat. Fat = flavour.
  • 3 medium onions
  • 6 cloves of garlic crushed (I used 3 single clove bulbs – see photo)
  • 6 dried apricots sliced into quarters (don’t see photo)
  • 6 fresh apricots, stoned and quartered
  • 2 tablespoons of raisins (don’t see photo)
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • Zest of one lemon
  • An inch and a half of shredded ginger. (Thanks L for the shredder.)
  • 8 carrots
  • 1 pint of chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon of cornstarch in half a cup of water (to thicken if needed)
  • Oil for frying
  • Fresh coriander

The Spices

  • Smoked paprika – A large tablespoon
  • Cardamom – A tablespoon of pods
  • Cayenne pepper – 1 teaspoon
  • Cinnamon  – 1 teaspoon
  • Cloves – 1 teaspoon
  • Coriander (ground) – 1 teaspoon
  • Cumin – 2 teaspoons
  • Ground ginger – 1/2 teaspoon
  • Saffron – A pinch (Two if you can afford it. I used a pinch.)
  • Turmeric – 1 teaspoon

Dry fry any of the spices that are not powder already. Let them cool then crush them.

A raft of flavour in all those spices. They look excellent too.

Mix all the spices together and add the lamb. Mix until every piece of lamb is coated in the spices. Put this away in a cool place for at least 4 hours.

The lamb coated. Leave it for a minimum of 4 hours or overnight if you are better organised then I seem to be.

Fry it off in batches, until brown on all sides, in a large casserole dish.

The lamb takes on a nice crust while giving off some beautiful aromas and flavour to the oil.

Set the meat aside.

The gratuitous meat shot. You know that you want to see it. Bet you wish you could smell it.

Chop the onions and add to the pan. Sweat them down for a good 20 minutes. over a low heat. This softens them and will absorb lots of the spices from the pan. Great to add depth of flavour.

Chop then crush the garlic. Bash it up good and proper to get the oils out.

Add the garlic and leave it another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add back the meat.

The grater gets its first outing. I promised L that I would feature it.

Add the ginger, add the tomato paste, add the carrots, add the honey, add the raisins, add the stock and add the lemon zest. Season with some black pepper and salt. Cook it in the oven at 180 C for a couple of hours. Add the dried and fresh apricots and the raisins after an hour and a half. Thicken it if you need to.

The sweetness of the fruit works wonderfully with the aromatic spices.

Chop and add the fresh coriander at the last-minute. Gather the clan and serve with a good quality rice.

No tagine needed. The depth and breadth of flavour was amazing.

I have proved to myself that you don’t need a tagine to cook a Lamb Tagine. I also learned that I need to show a little more respect for the efforts of my friends. Mind you, I’ll bet mine was better than his….

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Latest comments
  • I agree! At school we’ve been making tagines (without the tagine) if that makes sense and I agree the most important part is the delivery of the flavours. Judging by your pics, I can tell the flavours are definitely delivered. Looks great!

    • Thanks, it was pretty complex and delicious.

  • That sounds like quite the undertaking, but it looks fantastic!

    • Well worth the effort. It was beautiful, if I say so myself.

  • Ha ha – that sounds like a suitable atonement 🙂

    • Not my finest hour.

    • Thanks for that. I received a gift of some copper based saucepans last week (For future posts, hopefully). If I try and bring any more photography or cooking equipment into the house, I will be divorced!

  • Ha – wishing there was ‘scratch n’ sniff’ for the Lamb shot. Yes – you are smug Conor.
    Nice to know you can remove yourself from your own pedestal.
    Whats with the ‘L’ and the ‘P’ ? Are they in the witness protection program??

    • They are both men. Natural shyness has them saying things like “Don’t mention me by name.” Their underlying desire for fame allows me to put in the single initial.

  • It’s always disappointing to learn of our friends’ secret lives — especially when we learn that John Wayne is really Martha Stewart. 😉 Very nice ‘tagine.’

    • I suspect some of those secrets are best unknown…

  • Wow ! Lamb meat is my favorite. This looks delicious. Thanks for posting such a wonderful recipe.

    Veena :)))

    • Thanks Vina. It is tasty all right.

  • I did this using a cookbook from my French sister-in-law. It was in French. I screwed up. Also how do you get your spice piles into nice little volcano shapes. How do you do that??

    • Infinite patience is required. Just when you have it right, the dog runs into the kitchen and bangs into the table. Start again, slowly pouring from a small spoon or paper funnel…

  • This looks delish! I too have been banned from buying any cookware for the moment (I do have a running wish list – hint, hint spouse of mine). BTW, been meaning to ask which theme you are using? I like that your header photo changes. I feel like mine needs to be refreshed. I am bored with the look of my site.

    • The theme is 2011. It does most things one would want, apart from writing the blog.

      • Does it force you to use a primary photo every time you post? That is the one problem I have with my theme, especially if I try to upload something via my email.

        • Thankfully no. I have it set to pick from a range of pics that are a bit generic (probably inappropriate most of the time but I like them). The 2011 theme works for me.

          • LOL! I have a static header, but the theme makes me also add a featured photo, which can be a bit problematic. Definitely keeps me from doing too many from my phone, which won’t post the one and only photo as featured.

          • If I am thinking of posting from my phone, there is probably too much drink involved. I stay away from doing that. Not that I suspect you of the same…

          • LOL! It is usually a big meal out, but yes, drink is usually involved.

      • Thanks. I will check it out.

  • Just last night while watching Jamie Oliver’s Food Escapes in Marrakech I wanted to try his tagine recipes and wondered if it’ll be all right to do without a tagine. So glad to see this post and your results.

    • It is an ‘all afternoon’ project, particularly if you want to take pics. Do it.

      • With the daylight getting shorter my frustration is increasing. I struggle to take pictures as I rely on natural light. I am encouraged by your post and am thinking if I could cook one day and photograph next day. I do have a vision of a steaming bowl of stew over couscous. Thanks for the “Do it”…it was a good push!

        • Your photography is absolutely first rate. Even in lower light you can create great stuff. Glad to have helped a little bit.

  • “Boy, can I pontificate.” Ditto! Looks delicious, by the way.

  • I love tagines, both the cooking vessel and the Moroccan stew. I have a beautiful tagine Baby Lady gave me that I never cook in. Instead, I use it to serve the tagine I cook in my dutch oven because it’s purty. I probably should break down and buy an inexpensive baked terra cotta one so I would cook in it. Your tagine looks really wonderful. With all of the aromatics and the lamb, it must have been fabulous, indeed.

  • You’ve outdone yourself again, Conor. Looks and sounds delicious. Have never made anything Moroccan and no intention to buy a tajine, but your post has convinced me to give this a try! I agree that the cooking vessel is not important (as long as you put the lid on the casserole) and that microplane graters are the best. Not sure if I can get fresh apricots and I’ll most likely use lamb stock.

    • Thanks Stefan. It was very tasty. The fresh apricots pretty well disintegrated in the stew. Perhaps I put them in too early? Stil, we got the flavour in there.

  • I’m sure your no tagine was delicious no matter what it was prepared in.

    • Hi Karen, Thank you. It was very nice. You should extend your European tour into Ireland and I can cook it for you.

  • It’s a chilly night here in Boston, and this would really hit the spot for dinner. Looks great!

    • The prep time means it is not a ‘snap decision’ dinner. But, winter approaches so no excuses.

  • Looks so good! Am sure it tasted super too. Can I kidnap you so that you can cook for me? 🙂

    • A trip to Ireland is all it would take. You would enjoy it, We would love to meet you in person and the ailing Irish economy could do with the spend.

      • Ireland features very high on my to-do list. In fact I hope to shoot a feature film there one day. The light is just incredible … So Conor, one day soon I may just land at your doorstep and take you up on your offer! 🙂

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