Lamb Tagine recipe - David Lebovitz (2024)


Lamb Tagine recipe - David Lebovitz (1)

One of the first lessons I learned on my way to becoming un vrai Parisian was to never, ever be on time. I should backtrack and say: One should never to be on time when invited for dinner party. The hosts, who called with my first invitation to a soirée about a week after I arrived in Paris, said “Come at 8pm…But you know, in Paris, that means to come at 8:30pm.”

Subsequently, when I have guests for dinner, I expect them to be around 20 minutes late, although there’s much debate on how late you’re actually supposed to be. But if you’re on time, or early, you might accidentally catch your hosts either in their skivvies.

It’s a tricky balance when you inviting folks for dinner, trying to make sure what dinner’s gonna be hot and well-cooked without having to spend the last 30 minutes trapped in the kitchen while your guests drink up all the rosé. And it’s now become fashionable to be even later, as if to show that you have oh-just-so-much on your agenda, which has made being tardy something of a status symbol. But if your friends show up one hour late, and you’ve made something like Pork Roast, which can dry out in a minute, you’re screwed. Then you’ll only be thankful for them not arriving early and catching you in your petit slip français.

In Paris, with so many Arabic and North African butchers around, it’s easy to find cuts of meat that lend themselves to slow-braising and making North African stews like Tagines. Being a pastry chef since the beginning of time, I was always a little terrified of meat, never quite knowing how to handle it. But I bravely started going into the butcher shops, inspecting the enormous slabs of meat trying to look as if I knew something about them, then I’d make my pick. Conveying how to cut it for me is another story, but most of the time, chopping my hands through the air like Helen Keller doing karate seems to get the point across. My Arabic is terrible, so most of the time, I end up bringing home a lamb shoulder, since it’s inexpensive, not terribly fatty, and most importantly…easy to point to since they keep them right in front of the butcher cases. (Ok, lamb shoulder’s also hard to ruin.)

For some reason, leaner cuts of meat usually taste better in restaurants than when I make them at home. I don’t know why. But stewing cuts of meat, like lamb shoulder, I find I can make taste equally as good, or better, than anything I get when I go out. I’ve been making Tagines for the past few years with great success and once you start with a solid master recipe, like the one below, you can vary it for different kinds of meat or poultry, and you can make them as spicy or aromatic as you want by adjusting the spices. And since most benefit from long, leisurely braise in the oven, they’re perfect when you’re entertaining guests who arrive at various times, leaving you free to assist in the all-important task of making sure you guests have plenty of cool rosé in their glasses. But don’t neglect yours either.


Lamb Tagine

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.

Lamb Tagine recipe - David Lebovitz (2)For dessert, I recommend something fruity and refreshing, like a scoop of Sour Cherry Frozen Yogurt, from my book The Perfect Scoop.

I like it served with a fruity coulis made from red raspberries and cassis (black currants), mixed with sautéed cherries, made from the last cherries of the season, which I’m going to miss terribly.


Lamb Tagine recipe - David Lebovitz (2024)


What is best served with lamb tagine? ›

You should have a fresh, herby salad with lovely lemon flavours and bursts of sweetness with the raisins. Serve with your Tagine, some lightly warmed flatbread and a dollop of fresh yoghurt!

How do you make a good tagine? ›

How to Use a Tagine
  1. Season the tagine. A tagine should be seasoned before using to strengthen and seal it, and, if it is unglazed, to remove the taste of raw clay. ...
  2. Make the base layer. ...
  3. Add olive oil. ...
  4. Add meat, poultry, or fish. ...
  5. Season with spices. ...
  6. Garnish the dish. ...
  7. Add enough water or broth. ...
  8. Cook the tagine.
Aug 26, 2021

How is tagine traditionally made? ›

Traditionally the ingredients were packed into the pot, the lid was popped on tight, then it was cooked slowly over a smouldering charcoal fire. At home it's cooked slowly in the oven or on the stovetop. There are many types of tagines, but they all work the same way.

What temperature should a tagine be in the oven? ›

Heat oven to 325 degrees. In a tagine, Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot with a tightfitting lid, warm 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat until hot.

What is traditionally served with tagine? ›

Popular at dinner parties and family meals, diners traditionally gather around the dish and eat by hand, using bread to scoop up the meat, vegetables and sauce. Alternatively, serve up the tagine with rice or potatoes. Once the meal is complete, carefully wash and dry and return pride of place, back on display.

What vegetables do you serve with lamb tagine? ›

Oven-roasting vegetables like carrots, zucchini, and bell peppers brings out their natural sweetness and intensifies their flavor. Seasoned with olive oil, salt, and your choice of herbs, these colorful, nutritious vegetables provide a delicious contrast to the rich tagine, adding variety and depth to your meal.

Should a tagine have a hole in the lid? ›

Some tagines have a small hole at the top of the lid that releases steam, meaning the sauce reduces as the steam escapes. But if your tagine doesn't have a hole, reduce the sauce by removing the lid in the last 15-30 minutes of cooking.

Why do you put water in the top of a tagine? ›

Less water is required when cooking in a tagine because the cone-shaped top condenses steam and returns it to the dish. If you've erred by adding too much water, reduce the liquids at the end of cooking into a thick sauce because a watery sauce is not desirable.

What type of tagine is best? ›

Cast iron is more durable and versatile. This type of tagine is usually more expensive but is good for those who want a multi-purpose pot since it can be used on a stovetop without a diffuser, and some can go straight from the freezer to the oven.

Does food taste different in a tagine? ›

When you cook in a Tagine you get the unique earthy flavor you can't get when you cook in a regular pot or pan. You can put a modern twist on any traditional dish or experiment with your own blend of ingredients.

How do Moroccans eat tagine? ›

Moroccans love their bread, and for good reason as it does a lovely job of soaking up all of the sauce at the base of the tagine. It's also used as a vehicle to scoop up the meat, veggies, and any other contents of the dish.

What is tagine sauce made of? ›

Tomato [Tomato, Tomato Juice, Citric Acid], Red Wine [Red Wine, Sulphur Dioxide], Water, Apricots (8%) [Apricots, Rice Flour, Sulphur Dioxide], Onion, Apricot Pulp (6%), Honey, Sunflower Oil, Dates (4%) [Dates, Rice Flour], Lemon Juice, Tomato Paste,Ground Coriander (2%), Dried Spices (2%) Lemon Zest, Garlic Puree, ...

Can you overcook a tagine? ›

One secret to a stellar tagine is cooking the meat to just the right stage, almost falling off the bone, but not quite. Remember that even a stew can become overcooked and stringy, so pull the meat as soon as it is ready. Another is to check in to monitor its progress from time to time.

Can you put tagine directly on stove? ›

The versatile tagine pot can be used both on top of the stove or put in the oven. Dishes that are cooked in the pot can be taken straight to the table and served from there. Because of this, they are ideal for recipes for dinner parties or family gatherings.

How long do you cook in a tagine? ›

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until meat is tender, 1 ½ to 2 hours. If the consistency of tagine is too thin, you may thicken it with cornstarch and water slurry during the last 5 minutes. Serve over couscous.

What do Moroccans eat with tagine? ›

Tagine is frequently served over couscous. Plain couscous is fine though it's really nice with a little sprinkle of dried fruit and/or nuts littered throughout, or a spritz of fresh lemon. You'll find various flavouring options in the couscous recipe.

What is a good side dish for lamb? ›

8 light and simple sides to go with lamb
  • Dijon mustard glazed carrots. ...
  • Herby roasted Jersey Royals. ...
  • Zesty spring greens. ...
  • Roast baby leeks with oak-smoked bacon croutons. ...
  • Peas with pancetta. ...
  • Roast courgettes with lemon. ...
  • Roasted garlic and clementine carrots. ...
  • Roasted butternut squash with garlic and parsley.

Do you eat tagine with bread? ›

A note – in Morocco, tagines are generally served with bread, couscous being a dish in its own right. Both are, in my opinion, equally good at mopping up any sauce, so you should feel free to do as you please.

Is tagine eaten with couscous? ›

For example, the tagine I had in the US is actually couscous. In Morocco, tagine is NOT served over couscous. Instead, it's more like the Moroccan version of pot roast. The two aren't even cooked in the same types of cooking pot.

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