moroccan lamb tagine with lemon saffron rice

Just looking at these pictures makes me drool...that's how good this meal was.  The flavour combo was amazing with the rich lamb, fragrant spices, acidic lemon and mild olive aroma.  The lamb was fall-apart tender and every bite was a different, but equally amazing flavour combination.  Lamb-carrot-chickpea-onion-olive-lemon - that was just the tagine...Trev made an amazing lemon saffron rice to go with it.  It was soo good with lemony-buttery flavour that made you want to shovel it into your mouth and savour it all at the same time.  Combine these two together?  Magic.  Yup, dinnertime magic.   

I've been wanting to try out a tagine recipe for quite a while and was finally inspired by a recipe I found in my International Recipe cookbook from Cook's Illustrated.  I've also never cooked lamb before, so I decided that now was the perfect time to try, so we picked up some beautiful lamb chops from

Real Deal Meats

.  It worked out perfectly and I definitely wouldn't hesitate to make lamb (or this recipe) again!

Oh, one more thing: I also hadn't tried a tagine recipe in the past because I don't own a tagine (the cooking vessel), but I was assured by Cook's Illustrated that I could use my dutch oven instead, and Cook's Illustrated doesn't often steer me wrong (this time was no exception). 

Moroccan Lamb Tagine with Chickpeas & Olives 

  • 5 garlic cloves, minced (about 5 tsp)
  • 1 1/4 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 3 - 2"x1" long strips of lemon zest (peel a lemon with a veggie peeler)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3-4 lbs of lamb chops (about 12 chops)
  • 1 large onion, halved and sliced into 1/4" thick slices
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and cut lengthwise, then cut crosswise into 1/2" thick half-moon pieces
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 cup Greek cracked green olives (rinsed, pitted and halved)
  • 1 can chickpeas (drained and rinsed)
  • 2 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • salt & pepper

Mix 4 teaspoons of minced garlic with the paprika, cumin, cayenne pepper, ginger and cinnamon in a small bowl and set aside.  Mince one strip of the lemon zest and mix with the remaining one teaspoon of garlic in another small bowl and set aside.

Pat the lamb chops dry with a paper towel and sprinkle on both sides with salt & pepper.  Heat the oil in a dutch oven over medium-high heat just until it starts smoking.  Place about half of the lamb chops in the pan and brown on both sides (about 5 minutes each side).  Remove the chops from the pan and set them on a plate while you brown the remaining chops then put them on the plate.

Pour off all but about 1 tablespoon of the fat in the pot (keep the heat on medium-high).  Add the onion and the remaining two strips of lemon peel and cook until softened (about 5 minutes).  Stir in the spice mixture and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add the carrots, chicken stock and honey to the pot and scrape up any of the browned bits from the bottom of the pot.

Return the lamb chops and any of the juices that accumulated on the plate to the pot, nestling them down into the broth.  Cover the pot and turn the heat down to medium-low and simmer for about one hour.  Transfer the lamb to a serving dish and tent it loosely with aluminum foil while you finish making the sauce.  Using a large flat spoon, skim off as much fat from the surface as possible.  Add the chickpeas and olives to the pot and simmer for another 8 minutes.  Add the lamb back into the pot.  Stir in the lemon-garlic mixture, cilantro and lemon juice.  Season with salt & pepper then transfer back to the serving dish and serve immediately.

Lemon Saffron Rice

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely diced
  • healthy pinch of saffron threads
  • 1 1/2 cups rice
  • 3 cups chicken
  • 1 tsp lemon zest

Melt 2 tbsp butter in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onion and saffron (grind it between your fingers as you sprinkle it into the pan) and saute until the onion is translucent.  Add the rice and saute for another 2 minutes.  Stir the chicken stock and lemon zest into the pot, cover it and reduce the heat to medium-low.  Stir the rice after 10 minutes, cover and continue to cook for another 10 minutes.  Check the rice to see if it's done - if it still needs a bit more time cook for another 5 minutes. 

Tagine recipe adapted from The Best International Recipe by Cook's Illustrated.