MINCE LAMB TAJINE | Fancy a taste of Morocco in the comfort of your own home?
If you are short on time, then look no further than this great Middle Eastern dish featuring lamb mince and authentic Moroccan spices that only takes 15 minutes to make.
Having caught up with friends a few nights ago over a Moroccan meal, I was not impressed by the quality of Middle Eastern cuisine in Hong Kong. So on that note, I took the initiative to whip out my tajine I procured from Marrakesh (back in Jan 2014) to make my own tajine. While a chicken tajine would take much longer to make, I was short on time (as I invited an ex colleague over), so opted for a simple minced lamb tajine.
First, a little history lesson on the Tajine.
The tagine dates back to Harun al-Rashid who was a ruler of the Early Muslim conquests. The earliest writings about the concept of cooking in a tajine appear in the famous Alf layla wa Layla (One Thousand and One Nights), an Arabic story collection from the 9th century. It is also mentioned during the times of the Islamic reign of the Abbasid Empire (stretching from the Middle East/Asia to North Africa and Andalusia) during the 9th century. The dish would have been already famous amongst the nomadic Bedouin people of the Arabian Peninsula, who added dried fruits like dates, apricots and plums to give it its unique taste. Tagine is often eaten with french fries, either on the top or on the side.
Today, the cooking-pot and its traditional broth is primarily prepared in the Middle East and North Africa. In North Africa it is called a Tajine, while in the Middle East it is called a maraq (broth) or a qidra(cooking pot).
There are different ways to prepare the tajine. In the original qidra style saman (clarified butter) is used to lubricate the surface and a puree of chopped onion is added for flavour and aroma. For muqawlli-style cooking, the ingredients are placed in olive oil to enrich the flavours.
There are many descriptions of how to prepare a tajine from Arab scholars from the mid-centuries. A famous description is the one from Ibn al-Adim:
Boil the meat and fry with fresh coriander, onions and hot spices and a little garlic. Then pick out the fennel hearts and cut in half. Put over the meat. Put back some of the broth on it along with sheep’s tail. Boil until cooked and the broth has been absorbed. Remove [from the heat].
— Ibn al-Adim, Kitab Al Wuslah il Al-Habib fi wasf al tayyibat wa Al-Tib
Moroccan Minced Lamb Tajine
PREP TIME: 15 min | COOK TIME: 30 min | TOTAL TIME: 45 min | YIELDS: 3-4 servings
- 450g/1lb lean lamb mince
- 1 onion, peeled and chopped
- 20ml/4tsp plain flour
- 10ml/2tsp ground cinnamon
- 5ml/1tsp ground coriander
- 5ml/1tsp ground cumin
- 10ml/2tsp ground turmeric
- 10ml/2tsp ground ginger
- 1.25ml/¼tsp saffron threads, soaked in a little hot water, optional
- 200ml/7floz good, hot lamb or vegetable stock
- 15ml/1tbsp runny honey
- Salt and freshly milled black pepper
- 75g/3oz ready to eat apricots or prunes, halved
- 2 tablespoons of freshly diced parsley/coriander, to garnish
- Heat a large non-stick pan or tajine on low-medium heat and add a tablespoon of olive oil. Gently fry the lamb with the onion for 3-4 minutes, breaking up any lumps with the back of a spoon.
- Add the flour and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the spices and saffron (if used) and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the stock and honey, season, bring to the boil, reduce the heat and cook for 15-20 minutes.
- 5 minutes before the end of the tagine cooking time, add the dried fruit. Adjust seasoning if required.
- Remove from the heat, garnish with the parsley/coriander. Serve with couscous if desired.