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Lamb Tagine with Pearl Onions, Dates, and Sugar Snap Peas

Well, I finally purchased a tagine, so my tagines will actually deserve the name from now on. I seasoned it by soaking it in water for about an hour and a half, then rubbing the inside with olive oil and baking it for a nice long while afterwards.

I have been rereading all the Paula Wolfert cookbooks I own, and eyeing a few more Moroccan cookbooks I would like to pick up. It is a wonderful voyage, trying to learn enough about Moroccan cooking to be able to improvise within it more dramatically.

Paula Wolfert has written that she prefers to cook traditional dishes in the traditional manner. She is a culinary anthropologist, and her research and stories are extraordinary. I love the recipes she manages to unearth. I respect and appreciate her commitment to working within the strictures of the cuisine that she loves.

I can’t function that way myself. I truly enjoy learning about traditional techniques and recipes, but in the end, fusion is my native cuisine, and all else falls before that. I am less interested in doing things right than I am in doing them well. That said, you have to understand the rules before you can break them successfully. With Moroccan cooking, I am still first learning the rules.

This tagine was adapted partially from a recipe I found on Food Down Under, and partially from the general technique for cooking lamb tagines that Wolfert explains in her books, and, well, the sugar snap peas looked really good when we went to the store.

Lamb Tagine with Pearl Onions, Dates, and Sugar Snap Peas
2 tbsp vegetable oil
3 lbs boneless lamb, cut into 1″ chunks
10 oz pearl onions
5 tbsp chopped parsley
1/4 C chopped cilantro
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/b tsp ground cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp saffron threads
Salt and pepper to taste
1 C warm water (plus more if necessary)
8 oz pitted dates
2 tbsp honey
About four big handfuls of sugar snap peas (rinsed, ends snapped off and discarded)

Blanch the pearl onions in boiling water for about 3 minutes. It will be easy to peal them afterwards, just by cutting off the root end and squeezing the onions out of their outer layers, which you then discard.

Do not, repeat, do not heat up your tagine before you start putting stuff into it. Place the tagine on your stovetop. Put in the oil and swirl it around a bit. Add the spices and herbs, and turn on the heat very low. Add the lamb and stir it around until it is coated in the oil/herbs/spices.

Add the onions and water, then put the top on the tagine and allow it to slowly come up to a simmer. If you want a few onions to remain whole and pretty instead of melting into the sauce, reserve a small handful and add them in later on instead.

It is remarkable how much cooking action you can get in a tagine over very low heat. I have never seen any other pot allow its contents to simmer over the lowest setting on my stove before.

Simmer for about an hour and a half, then add the dates. Continue simmering for another half hour or so, or until the lamb is unutterably tender.

Remove the lamb and place it on a baking sheet, and brown it for just a moment under the broiler, then set it aside.

Stir the honey into the sauce and cover the tagine again. Let it simmer for a little while longer, until the sauce is almost-but-not-quite reduced to your desire consistency. Add the peas, and let simmer for just a few minutes longer. Then return the lamb to the tagine, stir, and simmer just until all is warmed through again.

Don’t place your hot tagine onto a cold trivet. Remember, always heat your tagine slowly and allow it to cool slowly.

Serve and enjoy.

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10 Responses to “Lamb Tagine with Pearl Onions, Dates, and Sugar Snap Peas”

  1. Helen says:

    My parents brought me back a tagine when they went to Morocco to visit their birth places (Rabat and Oujda) and I love it during the winter ti make traditional couscous or simmered chicken thighs.
    I love your recipe, I wish I could find tastier lamb around here but it does not seem to be very popular around SC.
    Your pictures are making me hungry!

  2. Danielle, how funny, I’ve been reading Paula Wolferts books lately as I’m off to Morocco on Saturday. Maybe I’ll buy a tagine dish there, then I can try this your wonderful recipe.cheers, zsofi

  3. There’s a wonderful book called MOROCCAN COOKING by Tess Mallos that has lots of recipes for tagines. I’ve been having fun designing them with a friend who’s a potter. We’ve been testing his clay to find the best ways to cook in it, and testing different proportions of width/height to learn about how moisture is returned to the stew by the pot itself. Enjoy your new tagine!

  4. Danielle says:

    Helen – Really? I’m surprised; I’d imagine it would be popular down there. At least you can still make tasty tagines with other meats!

    Zsofi – Oh, I’m so envious! I’d really love to go to Morocco someday. Have fun!

    Lydia – That is awesome. I’d really love to hear more about the tests you’re doing and what you’re learning, actually. And do you have any photos of the tagines you’ve been designing? I’d absolutely volunteer as a test kitchen with ‘em, y’know. And thanks for the book recommendation – I’m off to Amazon to check it out now.

  5. Asha says:

    Beautiful picture and even more beautiful recipe!! Thank you! I will be back for more!I love traditional cooking and recipes!I am an ardent foodie!:))

  6. This looks like such a hearty, satisfying meal!

  7. Stephanie says:

    Great recipe, Danielle. Which tagine did you buy? Did you find it in the city or online? I’m looking for one too, fellow New Yorker. Thanks.

  8. Danielle says:

    Asha – Thank you!

    Ari – It was.

    Stephanie – I actually ordered it from tagines.com, but after I placed the order I noticed that Kalustyan’s has tagines for sale upstairs. On a completely unrelated note, I’m hosting a NYC food blogger potluck next Saturday – it’s going to be pretty crowded in my teensy apartment, but if you’re interested, you are welcome to squeeze in.

  9. [...] Main Courses: Meat Crypto-Jewish Brazilian Yellow Stew Finnish Meatballs with Squid Ink Pasta Hortobágyi Palacsintak (Pancakes Stuffed with Meat Stew) Kabocha Beef Tagine with Chickpeas and Preserved Lemon Lamb Tagine with Apricots, Dates, and Yams Lamb Tagine with Pearl Onions, Dates, and Sugar Snap Peas Malaysian Beef Curry with Thick Onion Sauce (Daging Nasi Kandar) Sour Cherry Barbecue Sauce and Baby Back Ribs Spicy Beef Slices with Tangerine Peel Stewed Garlicky Black Bean Spare Ribs Stir-Fried String Beans with Pork and Pork Töltött Káposzta (Stuffed Cabbage) [...]

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