Mediterranean Spiced Lamb Tajine With Apricots, with its exotic flavors, comes together in this richly spiced Tajine; simmered low and slow.
Traditionally simmered low and slow in the Tajine clay pot to intensify its aromatic flavors; an ancient technique not easily duplicated in modern cooking.
Tajine – The Ancient One Pot Cooking
Let’s first describe the Tajine pot (also spelled tagine); think of a centuries-old crock pot.
The ancient, hand made clay, earthen or ceramic baking dishes with a coned shaped lid, called a conical lid which traps steam during cooking, keeping the liquid inside the clay pot.
This type of ancient cooking was designed to keep moisture in poor quality cuts of meat (think, goat or mutton), while creating a concentrated flavor profile from the other ingredients.
It was once, only done over hot coals or open wood fires. No, we are not going to be preparing this spectacular dish over open fire, though we could.
Slow cooking on the stove top is the way this lamb Tajine will be cooked, with much the same modern-day concept as a crockpot.
How To Use A Tajine Pot
First important step in cooking with the Tajine pot, you have already seasoned (in much the way a cast iron pot is seasoned), is to marinate the meat being used.
The marinade to be used, one I found most often used when living in Brazil; Salt. Simply coarse salt.
Salt gets rubbed into the meat and left to sit out for several hours. This, is the best way to tenderize meat.
When ready to cook, layering the Tajine pot in a specific order, is the next important aspect of cooking in a Tajine pot.
Step By Step Preparation Of The Tajine
- Layer the bottom of the clay dish with the moist vegetables, such as onion, celery, carrots, fennel or other moisture producing ingredients.
- A good amount of olive oil gets drizzled across the base of vegetables.
- In goes the meat, fish or other protein, leaving room around the edges for other vegetables, such as potatoes, eggplant or other slower cooking vegetables.
- Add the larger vegetables around the edges of the protein.
- Dried fruits go on next and are often found in Middle Eastern stews such as this, as they not only impart flavor and help contrast the spices with a bit of sweetness but the concentrated sugar content in dried fruits, helps to further tenderize the meat as it cooks.
- Spices are layered on top of ingredients so that as steam is created inside of the pot, the spices are carried throughout the layers creating more concentration of flavor.
- Water, broth, even a little wine is poured on top, only to the level of the meat.
- Cook low and slow for 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours, checking the liquid to be certain it has liquid.
Many a tale has been told about the enticing, sometimes war triggered desire for the spices of the Middle East and Asia. Why?
The ancient spices that come from that part of the world are the foundation what molded, influenced and refined our modern day culinary world.
While every Middle Eastern woman has her own heritage of spices passed down to her from her grandmother, for making an exotic Tajine, I too have mine, since that is, in fact, my roots as well.
My Spice Profile
In this particular Tajine dish, I used lamb, therefore I chose a flavor profile I know best compliments the lamb:
When making Tajine with poultry, fish, goat, pork, or a vegetarian version using the plump and very meaty Fava Bean, I change the spice profile specifically to compliment the protein.
Tucked in my fridge, you will often find a jar of Homemade Chermoula, which is a beautiful and refreshing flavor profile I keep for a hurried meal.
It compliments fish, poultry and vegetarian dishes beautifully.
Lamb and Apricot
Whether it’s lamb and apricot, pork and prunes, squab and dates, fish and figs, Mediterranean cooking is the most known, for using the concentrated sugars in dried fruits, to balance the multiple layers of spices.
Since sugar molecules are much larger than salt ions, which act as a natural tenderizer in cheap cuts of meat.
Ancient day cooking just instinctively knew how dried fruits, often dates raisins or figs, would tenderize an old and tough cut of meat.
What Grains To Eat With Tajine
Since I rarely include potatoes in my Tajine (a more European version of stew preparation), I give special attention to preparing barley or my most favored Moroccan Rice Recipe With Dried Fruit, a dish you could almost eat just by itself!
- Coarse salt
- Dried Apricots
- Cilantro or Rosemary
- Olive oil
- Chili peppers
- Ginger powder
- Smoked paprika
- Ground coriander
- Red wine
- Large Clay Tajine Pot – a unique cooking vessel and definitely worth owning one.
- Large mixing bowl
- 2 Small mixing bowls
- Cutting board
- Chopping knife
- Slotted spoon
- Garlic press
- Stovetop or burner
Mediterranean Spiced Lamb Tajine With Apricots
- 1 Large Tajine Pot
- 2 lb Lamb cubed
- 1 Eggplant cubed
- 1 tbsp Coarse salt
- 1/2 cup Apricots chopped
- 4 Carrots, large
- Fresh Cilantro and Rosemary finely chopped
- 2 tbsp Olive oil
- 1 Onion, large chopped
- 4 Garlic cloves crushed
- 3 Chili peppers finely chopped
- 1 tbsp Sumac
- 1 tbsp Ginger powder
- 1 tsp Paprika homemade
- 1 tsp Cinnamon
- 1 tsp Ground Coriander
- 1 tsp Cardamom
- 1 tsp Salt
- 2 tbsp Honey
- 1/2 cup Red wine
- 1 cup Water more if needed
- Place the cubed lamb chunks and cubed eggplant in a bowl and massage the course salt into the meat and eggplant and allow to sit out room temperature for an hour.
- Peel and chop the carrots into pieces similar to the size of the meat and eggplant pieces. Set aside.
- In a small mixing bowl, place the spices: sumac, ginger, paprika, cinnamon, coriander, cardamom and salt, mix and set aside.
- In a small mixing bowl, place the honey, wine, garlic and chopped chili peppers, mix and set aside.
- Arranging Tajine To Cook
- Place the large Tajine pot on top of the stove and turn the heat on low to medium low.
- Begin to layer the ingredients, placing the onions on the bottom, drizzle the olive oil, lay the meat and eggplant on top of the oiled onions, lay the apricots on top next, sprinkle the spice mix over everything, set the carrots around the edges.
- By now you should start to hear the onions sizzle a little. Pour the wine mixture over everything, followed by the water. Cover, lower and allow to mixture to slow cook for about an hour, untouched.
- Remove the lid and sprinkle the chopped cilantro and rosemary, gently stir and serve over cooked barley or rice and a side of olives and cheese.