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Lamb Tagine

Lamb tagging with olives and preserved lemon

A tagine is the famous Moroccan conical-lidded pot used to make braised dishes. But the word has come to mean any braised dish of the kind typically made in a tagine, whether it was actually cooked in one or not. A tagine is designed to circulate heat in a way that benefits even cooking, and since it’s porous, it absorbs seasonings over time. Tagines are exotically spiced and assertively flavored. A favorite combines lamb or chicken with briny olives and tart lemon.

Today many Moroccan cooks prepare their braises in pressure cookers or braising pots, and serve them in a tagine.


  • 2 cups chicken stock

  • ½ teaspoon. saffron threads

  • 2 ½ pound boneless lamb shoulder, trimmed and cut into 1 ½ -inch chunks (lamb stew meat)

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

  • 2 tablespoon olive oil

  • 1 white or yellow onion, finely chopped

  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger

  • ½ teaspoon sweet paprika

  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 12 sprigs each cilantro and flat-leaf parsley, tied together

  • 12 mild green olives, such as Lucques or Picholine

  • 1 small preserved lemon, pulp removed, rind rinsed and cut into strips

  • ¾ cup cilantro leaves, chopped

  • ¾ cup parsley leaves, chopped


  1. In a small saucepan, warm the broth over medium-low heat. Crumble in the saffron. Remove from the heat and set aside.

  2. Season the lamb chunks generously with salt and pepper. In a Dutch oven or other heavy pot, warm the oil over medium-high heat. When the oil is shimmering, add the lamb and brown on all sides, about 5 minutes total. With a slotted spoon, transfer to a platter. Add the onion to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the ginger, paprika, cumin and garlic and stir for 1 minute. Return the lamb to the pot and add the saffron broth, the cilantro and parsley sprigs and ½ tsp. salt. Season with pepper. Cover and cook over the lowest possible heat—just so the liquid shimmers—until the lamb is tender, at least 1½ hours. Check occasionally; if the liquid level falls too low, add 1 or 2 tablespoons water.

  3. When the lamb is tender, transfer to a platter and tent loosely with aluminum foil. Discard the cilantro and parsley sprigs from the braising juices and, if necessary, de-fatten the sauce. Add the olives and preserved lemon and simmer briskly over medium-high heat until the juices are reduced and concentrated, about 5 minutes. Return the lamb to the pot and taste and adjust the seasoning.  Garnish with cilantro and parsley, if desired, and serve.

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