Tagine Bil Kok (Moroccan Lamb Tangine)

So, have you heard the holidays are here? I gotta be honest, I’m just not in holiday mode yet. Thanksgiving came on us way to quick, as did the decorations, and Black Friday started on Thursday this year. I’m not yet ready to roast Jack Frost on an open fire…or whatever. So I’m staging a culinary protest this week. No peppermint, roasted birds or people sitting around wearing velvet and sipping eggnog. I’m going exotic and spicy.

Santa’s gonna need Tums!

First on the list, Moroccan food…and my favorite tagine. While it’s not actually spicy, it is darn good over couscous.

Tagine Bil Kok
by Kitty Morse
Cooking at the Kasbah
Serves 4

The Centre de Formation en Restauration Traditionnelle, a government-sponsored cooking school in Rabat, is dedicated to preserving the art of traditional Moroccan gastronomy. The students, all young women, will go on to staff Morocco’s embassies and consulates around the world. This classic tagine recipe, given to me by the Centre’s former director, Monsieur Tamer, is part of the school’s delectable curriculum.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 pounds leg of lamb, trimmed of fat and cut into 2-inch chunks
2 onions
1 cup chicken broth
8 threads Spanish saffron, toasted and crushed (see Note for instructions)
15 fresh cilantro sprigs, tied with cotton string
1 cup pitted prunes
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon pepper
salt to taste
1 tablespoon unhulled sesame seeds, toasted

In a small Dutch oven or enameled casserole over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil and sauté the turmeric, ginger, and lamb until the meat is well coated and lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Finely dice one of the onions. Add it to the meat along with the broth, saffron, and cilantro. Cover and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook until the meat is fork tender, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Discard the cilantro.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. With a slotted spoon, transfer the meat to an ovenproof dish and keep warm in the oven until ready to serve. Bring the sauce in the casserole back to a simmer.

Finely slice the remaining onion. Add it, along with the prunes, honey, cinnamon, and pepper to the simmering sauce. Season with salt. Cook until the mixture thickens somewhat, 6 to 8 minutes. Spoon the prune sauce over the meat and sprinkle the dish with the sesame seeds. Serve with warm bread.

Note: To toast and crush saffron, place threads in a small nonstick skillet and stir constantly over medium-high heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Crush the threads between your fingers, or pound them in a mortar along with a pinch of salt before using.

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