There’s a lot happening with each bite of this Moroccan Lamb Tagine with Asian Pears! Lamb shoulder is rubbed with a spicy, herbaceous, garlic marinade and accompanied by figs, dates, asian pears, red onions, and honey.
Let’s start with the obvious; What the heck is a Tagine and why should you cook with it? A tagine is an earthenware cooking vessel with history dating back to 9th century North Africa. Tagine also the word used to describe the food as we would say a stew or a curry.
The science behind the tagine is pretty simple. All the steam created by the juices of your ingredients rise to the top. The conical shape promotes the circulation of liquids back down in to the bottom of the pot. This slowly braises the ingredients in the bottom of the pot while leaving the top of the meat (for the most part) dry instead of steamed. Because any liquid from fruits, vegetables, or meats is recirculated during the cooking process, you actually don’t need much liquid for this method of cooking.
The recipes that make up a tagine are as varied as the families who make them. Typically you’ll find proteins like lamb, beef, chicken, and fish depending on the region preparing them. Vegetables, fruits, nuts and spices are used to add sweet, sour, spicy and deep earthy flavors. There’s a lot of creativity with tangines making them a fun way to break up your average home cooking. When else are you going to cook with garlic, figs, cilantro, pears, and lamb??
I think I’ve owned this pot for about four years and I’ve probably made just as many recipes with it. A tagine is an odd shape so I keep it stored away in a spot where I always forget about it. It is more fun, easier to cook with and easier to clean than a dutch oven. Does it produce significantly better results? I think it does. You want to know if a tagine is essential to this recipe? Probably not. A large dutch oven would get you something pretty close. I mean, lamb is delicious. You should make this on a sheet pan if you have to.
Moroccan Lamb Tagine with Asian Pears
- 3 cloves garlic
- 3 red chilis
- 2 tsp salt
- 3 tsp cumin
- 3 tsp paprika
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 2 tbs olive oil
- 2 lb boneless lamb shoulder
- 2 tbs olive oil for tagine
- 2 tbs vegetable oil to sear lamb
- 2 medium red onions quartered
- 6 oz. pitted prunes
- 6 oz. dried figs
- 2 asian pears quartered and cored
- 3 tbs orange blossom honey
- Finely chopped Parsley and Cilantro for garnish.
- Smash garlic, chilis and salt in a mortar and pestle.
- Keep smashing with some cumin, paprika, and lemon juice. Then add handfuls of chopped cilantro and parsley followed by some olive oil. Taste for seasoning.
- Rub the lamb with the marinade, wrap tightly and allow to rest for at least 6 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Place a heat diffuser on your stove top and heat up the tagine.
- Add a few table spoons of olive oil to the tagine and start cooking the quartered onions. Once they begin to soften add the figs, prunes and 1 cup of water.
- Give the lamb a quick sear on all sides in a separate pan. Deglaze the pan with a bit of water or chicken stock and add it to the tagine with the lamb and any left over marinade.
- Cover the tagine and cook in the oven for 2 hours.
- With about 20 minutes left to go, sauté the pears in butter until they’re golden brown. Add them to the perimeter of the tagine and return to the oven for another 30 minutes.
- Serve garnished with parsley and cilantro along with butter couscous.