Moroccan Tagine of Lamb With Prunes is a dish of tender chunks of lamb that are braised with a blend of spices, along with dried prunes and orange peel, that create an aromatic stew that’s packed with both sweet and savory flavors. Traditionally, it is slowly braised in a heavy cone-shaped, earthenware vessel called a tagine in a bed of coals but my dish is gently simmered in an ordinary pot on the stove top until the meat is so tender that it falls apart with a touch of a fork.
Lamb Stew With Prunes, A Traditional Moroccan Tagine
Serves 4, adjust the recipe accordingly
- 2 – 3 lb. of well trimmed boneless shoulder or leg of lamb cut into 1 1/2 inch chunks
- 1 – 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 3 – 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
- peel from 1 orange, cut into bite size pieces
- about 5 sprigs of fresh cilantro (coriander), tied into a bundle with kitchen string
- 3 tsp. ras el hanout*
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 4 c. beef broth
- a pinch of saffron threads, crumbled
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tsp. ginger
- 1 tsp. cumin
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 1 tsp. coriander
- 1 tsp. smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp. white pepper
- 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper or to taste
- 1 bay leaf
- salt to taste
- 12 soft dried pitted prunes, cut into halves
If you can’t find the spice ras el hanout and would like to make your own, my friend Victoria, at Flavors of the Sun has a recipe for her version which is a good one.
Place the lamb in a bowl along with the olive oil, garlic, orange peel, cilantro and the ras el hanout and mix well. Marinate the lamb in the refrigerator for several hours then bring to room temperature before proceeding with the recipe.
Place the lamb into a heavy bottomed pot (retain the garlic, orange peel and cilantro for later) and brown on all sides, do not overcrowd and cook in several batches, if necessary, then set aside. Add the onion to the pot and cook until translucent, stirring up all the brown bits. Add the lamb back to the pot along with the retained garlic, orange peel and cilantro and cook for a minute. Add broth to just cover the meat and stir well. Bring to a boil then immediately reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, cover and cook until the lamb is tender, about 2 to 3 hours. Check from time to time, adding a little more broth or water, if needed. Once the lamb is tender, remove the meat to a bowl, cover and keep warm. Discard the cilantro, taste the sauce and see if you need to adjust the seasoning. Add the prunes to the sauce, return the pot to the stove and cook until they are very soft and the sauce has thicken slightly. Return the lamb to the pot and heat until warm.
If you are lucky enough to own a tagine, you could cook your meal in it or transfer the stew into it for a lovely presentation. Serve toasted sliced almonds, chopped apricots, dates or raisins as condiments. If you prefer a spicy stew, you could also serve this dish with a small bowl of harissa (a spicy Moroccan hot sauce) for added heat and flavor.
Tagines are traditionally served with couscous or pieces of warm flatbread used to scoop up the meat and juices. I served mine with a Vegetable Couscous.
This slow simmered stew is loaded with flavors typical of North African cooking. Braised at a low temperature, the lamb cooks in a rich, flavorful sauce until it becomes tender and succulent. The wonderful spices are also soaked up by the prunes and they in turn add a delicious sweetness to the stew.
If you lived in Morocco, you could buy your spices in the morning at one of the colorful markets, then go home and prepare your favorite version of this stew in your tagine. While my recipe may not be considered traditional, as it is not prepared in that famous piece of cookware, it is nonetheless delicious and my kitchen was filled with wonderful aromas while it cooked. This is a great dish that is perfect for entertaining. When it was served to our dinner guests recently, there wasn’t a mouthful left over.