Hosting your very own Moroccan Night might sound a little intimidating. Yet don’t miss out on enjoying an evening of aromatic and complex comfort foods with friends, just because you can’t pronounce an ingredient or two. Mastering Moroccan Night is much easier than you might think!
A traditional lamb tagine is just the dish to ease you into a night of color ambiance and alluring flavors. Your Moroccan dinner party will be a summer soirée to remember featuring this spicy-sweet Lamb Tagine speckled with plump apricots and raisins, briny olives, and hearty chickpeas.
Here’s how I did it…
Prepare all your ingredients before you start cooking. Chop the onions and garlic. Grate the ginger. Cut the dried apricot in half. Then chop, season, and flour the lamb.
Sauté the lamb in olive oil until brown on all sides. This seals in the juices and flavor of the lamb.
Then remove the lamb and add the onions, garlic and ginger. Sauté the onions until soft, then add the Ras-el-Hanout spice blend, a pinch of saffron, and a little crushed red pepper.
Ras-el-Hanout is a traditional Moroccan spice blend that most major spice companies produce. Each blend is slightly different, but it usually contains: cinnamon, cumin, paprika, coriander, pepper, and turmeric. If you can’t find Ras-el-Hanout, blend equal parts of these spices.
Once the spices have had time to cook a little and release their flavors, deglaze the pan with a cup of good red wine. Choose a rich and fruity wine that you can serve with the tagine.
Now add the rest of the ingredients to the tagine, including the browned lamb. Break up the whole stewed tomatoes with a wooden spoon and mix to coat.
Reduce the heat to low and cover the tagine. Then slow cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, stirring occasionally so the lamb doesn’t stick to the bottom.
I like to use the extra time to thoroughly clean up my mess. That way, after dinner I simply load a few plates in the dishwasher and I’m done. While the tagine is cooking, I wipe down my countertops and load as many dishes on the top racks as possible.
Fortunately, my KitchenAid® 6-Cycle Dishwasher has a culinary tool rack up top. I can lay my zesters and utensils flat so they get clean without having to pre-rinse. There’s so much room on the bottom rack, I can fit the ceramic tagine in the dishwasher as well!
Once the lamb chunks are fork-tender and the sauce has turned to thick gravy, the tagine is ready to serve.
You can serve the tagine over plain couscous, but I like to kick-up the flavors of the couscous by adding toasted almonds and citrus zest.
See? Mastering Moroccan Night is a cinch with this traditional tagine. Moroccan Night is a great way to celebrate exotic flavors in a carefree and unthreatening way. Try turning one of your summer get-togethers into something extraordinary!
Lamb Tagine with Apricots Raisins and Olives
Makes 4 to 6 servings
2 lbs. lamb steaks (or shoulder) cut into 1 inch cubes
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoons flour
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
2 tablespoon Ras-el-Hanout Moroccan Spice Blend
1 pinch saffron
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 cup red wine
One (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained
One (15-ounce) can stewed tomatoes in juices
3/4 cup dried apricots, halved
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 cup ripe pitted green olives
1 teaspoon orange zest
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Salt and Pepper
Place the Tagine (or a large deep skillet) over medium heat. Add the oil to the tagine. Then sprinkle the lamb with salt and pepper and coat lightly with flour.
Working in two batches, brown the lamb in the tagine until all sides are caramelized, then transfer to a holding pan.
Add the onions, garlic and ginger to the tagine. Saute 2-3 minutes, then add the Ras-el-Hanout, saffron, and crushed red pepper. Stir to coat and sauté another 2 to 3 minutes. Add the wine to deglazed the tagine and scrap the bottom to release any brown bits.
Now add all remaining ingredients, including the browned lamb. Using a spoon, break up the tomatoes into smaller chunks. Then sprinkle 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper over the top and stir to combine.
Cover the tagine (or skillet) with the lid and turn the heat to low.
Slow cook the tagine for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until the lamb is fork-tender and the sauce has thickened. Lift the lid and stir every 30 minutes, then cover again.
Serve warm over Almond Citrus Couscous (recipe follows).
Notes: A tagine cooking vessel is designed to keep the moisture from escaping, so the food stays moist. If using a regular skillet, add 1/2 cup water to the skillet before covering.
Almond Citrus Couscous
Makes 4 to 6 servings
2 cups couscous
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup roughly chopped almonds
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Zest of one medium orange
Zest of one lemon
Salt and Pepper
Melt the butter in a small saucepot over medium heat. Add the almonds and sauté for 3 to 5 minutes until golden, stirring regularly. Scoop the almonds out of the pot onto a paper towel to cool.
Add the chicken stock to the pot and turn the heat up to high. Once the chicken stock comes to a boil, add the couscous, and citrus zest. Stir and cover, then remove from heat. Allow the couscous to steam for five minutes. Then fluff with a fork and mix in the toasted almonds. Salt and pepper to taste.