Recipe: Lamb Tagine with Green Olives and Lemon

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Lamb Tagine with Couscous

What kinds of foods and flavors come to mind when you think of Morocco? I think of preserved lemons, couscous, harissa paste, mint, olives, and more than anything else: tagine, a dish that is named after the special conical-lidded pot in which it is cooked.

Tagines are slow-cooked stews braised at low temperatures, resulting in tender meat with aromatic vegetables and sauce.

Lamb Tagine with Couscous. Photo by Angharad Guy.

When I wanted to learn more about Moroccan cuisine I turned to Mourad Lahlou’s wonderful book, New Moroccan. The importance of the tagine in Moroccan culture was made clear to me (as I read in Lahlou’s book that his mother owned six or seven of them – some for chicken, others for fish, lamb, or vegetables), because each develops and retains a specific flavor that’s right for that kind of dish. The older the pot, the better, for it’s with age that a tagine really incorporates flavor and seasoning.

Lahlou illustrates that point by telling readers, “In Morocco, when a woman gets married and the family really wants to show the love, they’ll send her off with a set of seasoned tagines, not brand-new ones.”

I don’t own a tagine, the clay pot used to cook this dish, but Lahlou explains a short cut for those of us cooking without the traditional wares. He also mentions that the word “tagine” has come to mean any braised dish of the kind typically made in a tagine, whether it was actually cooked in one or not. So, if you have a Dutch oven or large cast-iron casserole, you can easily make this recipe.

And make it you should! The lamb marinates in a multitude of spices, lemon zest, and oil for several hours and then cooks for a couple hours more, the lamb becoming meltingly tender and carrying with it all the flavors of the marinade, giving every bite a bright, punchy flavor. That goodness gets transferred to the zingy broth, which is at once salty from the marinade and olives, sweet from the carrots and onions, and wonderfully fragrant from the fresh parsley and cilantro that you can see swimming in the broth in these pictures. Proper pot or not, I’m hooked.

Lamb Tagine with Green Olives and Lemon. Photo by Angharad Guy.

Lamb Tagine with Green Olives and Lemon
from Food and Wine


  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • Two 2 1/2-inch strips of lemon zest
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • Pinch of saffron threads, crumbled
  • One 3-inch cinnamon stick
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 1/2 pounds boneless lamb shoulder, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 4 cups water
  • 6 large carrots, thinly sliced
  • 1 onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 2 cups pitted green Picholine olives, rinsed
  • 1 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice


  1. In a large bowl, mix the olive oil, garlic, lemon zest, ginger, paprika, coriander, cumin, black pepper, cayenne, cloves, saffron, cinnamon stick and 1 tablespoon of kosher salt. Add the lamb and toss to coat. Refrigerate for 4 to 6 hours.
  2. Scrape the lamb and spices into a tagine or a medium enameled cast-iron casserole; discard the lemon zest. Add the water, carrots and onion and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook over low heat until the lamb is very tender, about 2 hours.
  3. Spoon off any fat from the broth. Stir in the olives, season with salt and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the parsley, cilantro and lemon juice. Ladle into bowls and serve with couscous. Serves 8.

Angharad blogs about her culinary adventures at Eating for England and Tweets as @angharad_guy.

By Arts Midwest | 08-10-2012


Im going to cook this tonight. it looks yummy.

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