We love to travel. Although we spent many of our childhood summers in Greece, as we got older we each began exploring other parts of the world as well. A few days ago, one of us celebrated her wedding anniversary, and with that came memories of an incredible honeymoon; months spent in Morocco, Gibraltar and Spain. Time was devoted to exploring cities, beaches, museums and the unique charm of these incredible places. Oh and yes, we ate. We ate well.
Our trip began in Morocco and after spending a day in Casablanca, we made our way to Marrakech. Seeking an authentic immersion in the culture versus a resort experience, we stayed in the walled “old city”, the Medina quarter. At the time, there were few hotels here and so we were surrounded by locals, many of whom spoke French (lucky for us). One of our favourite places was the UNESCO Heritage Jemaa el-Fnaa, a huge and bustling square beneath the Medina Quarter. In this courtyard we saw snake charmers, story tellers, nougat sellers and henna artists. In the nearby souks we met vendors selling spices, leather goods, perfumes, fabrics, and tagines. It was vibrant, joyful, and exhilarating, and we are so grateful that we got to experience this place when we did.
The other thing that we loved about Morocco was the food. Not only was it incredibly inexpensive, it was phenomenal. Although we enjoyed many different meals, including harissa soup, pastilla (a pigeon pie) and merguez sausages, our dinners in Marrakech were usually some form of tagine, a dish named for the earthenware pot in which it is cooked. We were so enamoured with this style of cooking, and with this dome covered pot, that during our next stop in Fez, the new bride convinced her groom that a tagine must be purchased. And so, we made our way into the souks of Fez, a labyrinthian place, and eventually found our way out carrying a beautiful potter’s tagine. The next step was to ensure its safe passage home with us. For the rest of our honeymoon, as we travelled by trains, small planes, ferries and finally a big plane home, that tagine pot sat on hubby’s lap, wrapped in gorgeous fabric (also from the souks), protected against any mishap. That’s love.
This recipe is inspired by many of the delicious food experiences we had in Morocco, and of course, our tagine. You will notice however that the meal itself is not cooked in the tagine. Traditionally, these earthenware pots are used over coals, and we have always been reluctant to pop ours into the oven, for fear of breaking or damaging it. So, whenever we make a tagine, we cook it in a cast iron pot and then transfer the food, for serving, into our tagine. It’s a happy compromise. This also means that you can make this dish just as easily. If you don’t have a tagine, simply serve your meal on a lovely platter, and then book a flight to Morocco.
While in Morocco we picked up some tips from the locals, and have used one of them here. The onion in this recipe is kept whole. This way, the flavour of the onion is imparted into the tagine, but the onion itself is removed before serving.
Most of the delicious tagines we had were a combination of meat, vegetables and dried fruit. The variations were almost limitless, and in this version we put together some of our favourite flavour combinations.
In this recipe we used leg of lamb that had been cut into slices, bone-in. You can use any cut of lamb you like, and if you prefer, you can use cubed cuts of meat. This would actually make serving and eating this dish a little bit easier.
The couscous which is served as the base of this tagine is to be cooked according to the package instructions. Usually, this means 1 cup couscous to every 1 1/4 cup of water.
Mia Kouppa: Lamb tagine with couscous
- 800 grams lamb shoulder or leg, cut into slices
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon saffron
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 medium yellow onion, peeled
- 2 medium potatoes
- 1 large sweet potato
- 10 dried apricots
- 1 cup couscous
- In a large pot combine the lamb, spices, whole onion, and garlic. Cover with enough water to just cover the meat and bring to a boil. Then, reduce the heat to medium and simmer, covered, for 50 minutes.
- Add the potatoes, sweet potatoes and apricots. Shake the pot a little bit in order to combine the ingredients. At this point you may need to add a little more water, to just cover the potatoes.
- Cook for an additional 15 minutes. Remove and discard the onion.
- Meanwhile, cook the couscous according to the package instructions.
- When your couscous is ready, place it in your tagine pot or a large platter. Add the lamb and vegetable mixture, with sauce, over the couscous and serve. Enjoy.