Tagine refers both to a cooking vessel and to the dishes cooked in it. Both originate in North Africa (Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia) and involve braising meats in a terra cotta, cone-shaped cooker, traditionally over a charcoal fire. The cone shape of the tagine top captures evaporating juices and returns it to the pot, enhancing flavors. Fruit is a frequent component of savory dishes in this area, and dried fruits, because of durability and portability, are often used. Because not everyone has a tagine, this recipe uses the more common Dutch oven.
Makes 6 servings
2 cups plain, whole-milk yogurt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon ground sumac (available in ethnic sections of the supermarket)
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground, dried ginger
2 cloves crushed garlic
1 1/2 pounds lamb, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, peeled and diced
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup chopped dried figs
1/2 cup pitted prunes
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
1 thinly sliced lemon
1/2 cup pitted, halved Kalamata olives
Cooked couscous or rice
Thoroughly combine marinade ingredients in a large zippered bag. Add lamb and refrigerate for 8 to 24 hours. Turn over every now and then to redistribute marinade.
Heat oven to 275 degrees. Drain marinade from lamb and reserve. Pat lamb dry with paper towels.
Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add half the lamb and brown on all sides. Reserve to a plate and brown remaining lamb. Also reserve.
Reduce heat to medium and saute onion until translucent. Add remaining ingredients and 1/2 cup of reserved marinade. Combine chicken broth with 1/2 cup marinade. Add enough broth/marinade to come halfway up the meat (about 1/2 inch).
Cover and place in oven. Cook 1 hour. Stir mixture and cook another hour. Repeat once more for a total cooking time of 3 hours.
Serve over couscous or rice.