Tagines, the hallmark of Moroccan Cuisine are delicious slow-cooked stews made using an array of ingredients. The word Tagine has dual meanings. Tagines are conical earthenware vessels and the stews cooked in them are also called Tagines. Steam collects in the cone of the Tagine pot as the food cooks, condenses back over its contents, basting it continuously and keeping the ingredients moist and buttery soft.
Tagines can be made with meat, poultry or fish combined with various vegetables and fruits. As I was researching Tagine recipes to share, I came across some gorgeous combinations like Chicken Tagine with Orange & Fennel, Turkey, Cranberry and Chestnut Tagine and even an irresistible Sardine Tagine. I was aching to attempt all these beautiful recipes that had me salivating, but I decided to stick to the classic Lamb Tagine with Prunes as this happens to be my first ever Tagine and consequently steppingstone into Moroccan Cuisine. So, if this dish is tasty enough to make me fall in love with the food of the Maghreb, you will too. That is a promise.
This dish is a legendary combination of sweet and savoury. The flavours of the slow braised lamb shanks work beautifully with the spiced onion sauce and caramelized prunes. I was a bit distraught when I began making this dish, as we were having a dull rainy day in Dusseldorf and I was certain I will not be able to get good pictures because my amateur photography solely depends on natural light. But once the simmering Tagine filled my home with the satisfying aroma of good comfort food, all my worries were put to rest (A little too much, I even forgot to sprinkle roasted almonds over the finished dish). All I wanted to do was soak up that delicious stew, melt in your mouth lamb and tangy prunes, with some crusty bread or couscous.
Can I use some other cut of lamb or meat?
Definitely! You can use any braising cuts from lamb, beef or even mutton.
Can I make this recipe without a Tagine pot?
You can make this recipe in any pot with a secure lid to prevent the steam from escaping. Slow cookers, Dutch ovens, heavy bottomed pots with a tight lid will all be perfect.
- Oil 2 tbsp.
- Lamb Shanks 1 kg
- Onions 3; large
- Fresh Coriander 1 bunch
- Garlic Paste 2 tbsp.
- Salt 1 ½ tsp. or to taste
- Turmeric Powder 1 tsp.
- Ginger Powder 1 tsp.
- Black Pepper ½ tsp.
- Saffron Strands ¼ tsp.
- Dried Prunes 1 cup
- Honey 2 tbsp.
- Cinnamon Powder ½ tsp.
In a large pot heat oil and sear the lamb shanks until they are browned from all sides. Remove shanks onto a plate. In the same pot add finely chopped onions. Sweat onions on medium flame until they are translucent, about 15 minutes. Do not brown the onions. They should be a transparent colour.
Once the onions are translucent, add the shanks back to the pot. Add spices and garlic paste. Add enough water so that only half of the lamb shanks are submerged, about 2 cups of water and gently mix everything. Do not add too much water, the surface of meat should be visible. Tie the bunch of coriander with kitchen thread and place on top of meat. When the water begins to bubble, cover with a tight lid, and make sure no steam is coming out of the pot. Continue to cook for 1 hour on medium low heat.
After 1 hour remove ½ cup of cooked stock from the pot and keep aside. Discard the coriander bunch and turn the shanks around to ensure they cook from all sides. Close the lid again and cook for another hour or until the meat is extremely soft and falls of the bones. If at any stage, you feel the water is too little, add ¼ cup of water to avoid burning the meat. At the end you should be left with around 1 ½ to 2 cups of gravy depending on your desired consistency.
Meanwhile in a separate pan boil prunes in water for 5 minutes. Drain the prunes. In the same pan add reserved stock you had saved earlier. Add prunes, honey and cinnamon powder and cook till the sauce begins to thicken.
Once the lamb shanks are completely cooked, transfer stew to a serving bowl. Spoon the prunes along with syrup on top. Sprinkle roasted almonds on top. Serve with crusty bread or couscous.