This lamb stew is inspired by a traditional Moroccan meat and vegetable tagine and Mrouzia, a rich celebratory stew sweetened with fruit and honey. I have scaled the sweetness back, omitting the honey and relying on dried figs, which melt into the stock while simmering to provide gentle sweetness. A few spoonfuls of tomato paste add body and a nice balancing acidity to the sauce. The meat can be rubbed with the spices and cooked straight away, but if you have the time, rub the meat the night before preparing and refrigerate. The longer the meat can sit with the spices, the deeper the flavor.
Lamb Tagine with Figs and Chickpeas
The spice list is lengthy, but attainable. It’s a compilation of spices similar to those found in Ras El Hanout, a spice blend that is a staple in North African cuisine. Serves 6.
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
3 pounds lamb leg or shoulder, excess fat trimmed, cut into 1-inch chunks
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger with juice
3 to 4 cups chicken stock
12 dried brown figs, stemmed and halved
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 (2-inch cinnamon stick)
2 carrots, cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 cup cooked chickpeas
Chopped cilantro leaves for garnish
Combine all of the rub ingredients in a small bowl. Place the lamb in a large bowl and sprinkle with the rub, then toss to thoroughly coat. Let stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes (or cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours).Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a dutch oven or large pot with a lid. Add the lamb in one layer in batches, without overcrowding. Brown on all sides. Transfer to a plate and repeat with remaining lamb. Add the onion, garlic and ginger to the same pot. Saute until fragrant and onion begins to soften, about 2 minutes. Return the lamb with any collected juices to the pot. Add the 3 cups chicken stock, the figs, tomato paste, cinnamon stick, and 1 teaspoon salt. The lamb should be mostly submerged in the stock. If needed, add more stock to cover the lamb.
Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the lamb is very tender, about 2 hours. (Alternatively, place into a 300°F oven).
Stir in the carrots and chickpeas. Simmer, uncovered, over medium low heat until the sauce reduces and thickens to a thick stew consistency and the carrots are tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Serve warm, spooned over couscous. Garnish with cilantro and serve with harissa or hot sauce if desired.