Sunday, June 27, 2010

Moroccan Lamb Tagine in the Dutch Oven

For the last few weeks, now, I've been eager to try something new, something exotic.  A lot of the dishes I've been cooking lately have been remakes of past dishes.  That's good, I get to learn how to do them again, and make changes that make them better.  But I need to reach out and stretch from time to time, too, or I get stale.

And I was feeling a little stale.

Jodi had bought some lamb chops, and she was hoping that I'd do something with them.  I dove in, and searched out a whole bunch of lamb ideas, from a whole bunch of cuisines and nationalities.  In the end, this one won out, from Morocco.

I've not done anything from the african continent yet, in all the years I've been writing about the dutch oven.  This is my first.  Of course, it's from the mediterranean north coast of Africa, and I'm well aware that central and southern cuisines are very different.  I'll explore those someday, too.

I also tried something new, in my cooking process.  Over the years, as I've been trying to learn how to cook, I've always kept a very loose and unorganized cooking space.  This, of course, flies in the face of the concept of "Mise en Place".  This is pronounced "Mees-ah-plahz", and it means, literally, "putting in place".  There are many who refer to it as "everything in place".  It's the act of gathering together all of your ingredients and utensils, and arranging them into your working space so that you have easy access to them.

I've never done this.  I've only read about it.

But, too many times, I've run into situations where I've been in the middle of cooking a dish, and an ingredient I assumed we had plenty of was gone.  Either it was misplaced, or it was used up, or never there to begin with.  In any case, I would usually be in a situation where the time for that ingredient came and went, and I was frantically searching for it, usually while other ingredients were burning.

As I looked over this extensive list of ingredients, especially the seasonings for the marinade, I realized that the time had come to embrace mise en place, and give it a try.  It really helped.  Believe me.  I have learned my lesson.

Moroccan Lamb Tangine

This recipe makes about six servings, at about 525 Calories each.   It was done in three steps: the Marinade, the Meat, the Stew.

The Marinade

  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 pounds lamb meat, cubed
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground coriander

As I mentioned, I began last night by gathering up all of the seasonings and the meat, so everything was there and accessible.  I cubed up the lamb (from chops) and put it all in a 1 gallon ziplock baggie with the olive oil.  I gave that a shake to coat the lamb.

Then, I just added in all of the seasonings.  This is a serious whopping lot of seasonings.  I followed the recipe, and it tasted great in the end, but I also wondered to myself if all of the individual flavors of all of these seasonings just ended up lost in the mix.  Maybe it's like a symphony orchestra.  Sometimes it's the overall sound that's inspiring, not the individual instruments themselves.


Once all of those were in, I shook up the bag for about a minute, tossing it and massaging it so that it all got well coated.  I set it in the fridge to coat and absorb overnight.

The Meat

12" Dutch Oven

20-22 coals below

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • The meat mix from the previous step
  • 2 medium onions, sliced
  • 4-5 green onions, sliced into the green stems
  • 5 carrots, sliced lengthwise into thin, short strips
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated or minced

Even though the bad craziness of all the spices was done the night before, I decided to give mise en place another go today.  I gathered up all of the ingredients before I did anything else.

I lit up the coals, then put on the dutch oven with a bit of olive oil.  I let that heat up a little.  When I could tell that the oil was heated and shimmery, I dropped in the meat, and it began to brown.  It looked Sooooo good.  The spices were browning and searing into the meat...  Mmmm...

After about 10 minutes, I added in the onions, the garlic, the ginger, and the carrots.  I've been discovering the flavors of fresh ginger lately.  It's cool.  I stirred that occasionally and cooked it until the onions became translucent.

The Stew

20-22 coals below, a little less as it went on, to simmer

  • 1 lemon, zested
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste or sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey

  • kosher salt to taste
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon water (optional)

After the onions became cooked a bit, I added the first set of stew ingredients.  I used the turkey stock I had made the other night after the spicy turkey.  It was frozen, so I had to melt it.  That's probably not the best way to do it, just dropping a frozen brick into otherwise hot food.  It melted pretty quickly.  Next time, I'll melt it better, so it goes in better.

I covered it and let it come to a boil.  I let a lot of the coals die out.  I did replenish, but not as much as I might have for a roast, for example.  Once it was boiling, I wanted it to simmer.  I let it simmer for almost an hour. 

When it was close, I got out my 8" dutch oven, some more stock, and made some rice, with a little more lemon juice.

Also, as it was nearing the end of the cooking time, I also added the cornstarch (mixed with water so as not to clump) as a thickener.  I also salted it a little more to bring out the flavors.

My family loved this international incident.  My son helped himself to seconds without even asking.  It was truly a success!


Mark has discovered a love of Dutch Oven Cooking. Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.

Mark's Other Blog Posts: Heavenly Father... 


  1. Sorry, I couldn't post them earlier. Here they are!

  2. "Mise en Place"
    That's what I do when I stir fry. All ingredients are prepped and I even line them up in the order they hit the wok. Stir frying is so quick that it really helps to have everything ready in advance. I found that it helps with Indian (eastern) cuisine as well, although I haven't done much of that.



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