Writing has always come easily for me until now. I feel emotionally drained; it isn’t really surprising since my mother passed away less than a month ago.
I’m back at my desk working on Le Kitchen Cookbook, but staying focused isn’t easy. I did plant my garden, though I’m not quite finished. I’ve been cooking and eating as well as doing a lot of staring out into space; but when it comes to writing something thoughtful—nothing.
Instead, I’m going to continue with my lemon theme. I loved the lemon mousse I made and wrote about last week. So this week I’m going to bring the lemon to the main dish by making a lamb tagine with preserved lemons. That should shake dinner up a bit.
This recipe comes from the book Tagine Spicy Stews from Morocco by Ghillie Başan. Her recipe is for Chicken tagine with preserved lemon, green olives and thyme but I’ve changed it to lamb.
The name “tagine” refers to the conical-shaped earthenware pot used to cook the dish with the same name tagine. Don’t worry if you don’t have the earthenware pot; all you need is a heavy-bottom deep pot with a tight-fitting lid. The shape of the tagine allows the steam to be captured in the conical lid and drip back down, keeping the food moist. Any tight-fitting lid will do the same thing.
Traditionally, Moroccan tagines are served with couscous. I’ve included the recipe for buttery couscous below—it’s delicious.
LAMB TAGINE WITH PRESERVED LEMON, GREEN OLIVES, AND THYME
If you prefer to make this with chicken, use 10 chicken thighs.
Prep time: 30 minutes
Total time: 1 hour 40 minutes
4 lbs boneless lamb roast cut into 1½” pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil with a pat of butter
2 preserved lemons* cut into strips
6 oz cracked green olives**
1-2 teaspoons dried thyme or oregano
1 onion, grated
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1” piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 small bunch of cilantro, finely chopped
a pinch of saffron threads
freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon coarse salt
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
DirectionsIn a bowl, mix together all the ingredients for the marinade. Put the lamb in a shallow dish and coat with the marinade, rubbing it into the meat. Cover and refrigerate for 1–2 hours.
Heat the olive oil and butter in a tagine or pot with a tight-fitting lid.
Remove the lamb from the marinade and brown in batches without crowding the pan.
Return all the lamb to the pan and add remainder of the marinade. Add enough water to come almost halfway up the sides of the lamb pieces. Don’t add too much water—you don’t need it.
Bring the water to a boil, reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for about 45 minutes. Turning the lamb from time to time.
Add the preserved lemon, olives, and half the thyme to the tagine. Cover again and simmer for 20–25 minutes.
While the tagine is finishing, make the couscous so it is ready to serve when the tagine is done.
Check the seasonings and sprinkle the rest of the thyme over the top
Serves: 4 (double the recipe to serve 8)
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 25 minutes
Preheat oven to 350°
1⅔–(3⅓) cups traditional couscous
1 ¾–(3½) cups warm water with ½ (1) teaspoon salt added
2–(4) tablespoons olive oil
2–(4) tablespoons butter cut in small pieces
Place couscous into ovenproof dish, pour the salted water over the couscous.
Let stand for 10 minutes.
Mix the oil into the couscous and with your fingers break up any clumps.
Dot the butter over the surface and cover with a piece of foil.
Place the dish into the oven for about 15 minutes to heat through.
Fluff up the grains with a fork and serve the couscous with the tagine.
* You can find preserved lemons at Middle Eastern Markets, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, online or you can make them yourself there are lots of recipes online.
**Cracked green olives are olives that have been crushed open before brining. If you can’t find them just use regular green olives.
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I love the smell of lemon verbena. It floods me with memories of my childhood in Provence where it would fill the garden air. I remember how I'd brush up against it, wallowing in the explosion of a citrusy smell that was so intense I would stay and rub my hands over it. A few years ago, while wandering through...