Lamb Tagine with Prunes
- ACTIVE: 30 MIN
- TOTAL TIME: 2 HR 20 MIN
- SERVINGS: 6
Many meat tagines (slowly simmered Moroccan stews) are cooked with some sort of fruit, like apple, pear, quince or date. The luscious combination of lamb and prunes here produces a slightly sticky but complex sweet sauce that's perfect with steamed couscous or crusty bread.
- 1 teaspoon sesame seeds
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 3 pounds trimmed boneless lamb shoulder, cut into 2 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 medium onion, halved
- 1 bunch of cilantro, tied in a bundle with kitchen string
- 1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- Pinch of saffron threads
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 4 1/2 cups water
- 3 cups pitted prunes (14 ounces), halved
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 teaspoon orange-flower water (optional)
- In a small dry skillet, toast the sesame seeds over moderate heat until golden, 45 seconds. Transfer the seeds to a plate.
- In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, combine the oil, lamb, onion, cilantro, cinnamon stick, ginger, saffron, a pinch of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Add the water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to moderately low and cook, skimming the stew a few times, until the lamb is tender, about 1 1/2 hours.
- Using a slotted spoon, remove the onion, cilantro and cinnamon stick and discard. Add the prunes to the casserole and simmer for 15 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the lamb and prunes to a bowl. Boil the cooking liquid over high heat until slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Add the honey and boil for 5 minutes. Return the lamb and prunes to the casserole and stir in the orange-flower water, if using. Season with salt. Transfer the stew to a bowl, sprinkle with the toasted sesame seeds and serve.
Prunes and honey give this lamb stew richness and a hint of sweetness, which is best matched by a deeply fruity, thick-textured Cabernet blend, such as one from Lebanon or the Languedoc region of France.