Ok, so this isn’t a real tagine because, well, I didn’t make it in a tagine. I used the word in the title because it’s so evocative of the flavors and cuisine I was trying to cook tonight. I do really want a tagine one of these days, along with all sorts of other cool kitchen items I currently don’t have (I’m looking at you molcajete, fancy chopsticks, wok, Chinese soup spoons…) Using a dutch oven is a reasonable approximation, so that’s what we went with today.
We both love the flavors of the greater Middle East/Northern Africa. You may have noticed that if you’ve read more of our blog than just this post via Pinterest. I would venture a guess that dishes from that part of the world make up the highest percentage of our blog, as compared to other regions. Check out some of our other creations… they range from main dishes like Bahraini Chicken Machboos or Syrian Mini Meatballs (Dawood Basha) to Spinach & Feta Gözleme, to some of Ally’s beloved soups like Persian Spiced Lentil Soup or North African Wedding Soup, to delicious snacks like Muhammara and Spicy Feta Dip, and even Baklava! So many amazing and varied dishes! The flavors here tonight are incredibly similar to our Tangy Moroccan Meatballs, which is one of Ally’s favorite meals we’ve ever made and shared on this blog. The main differences between the two are the addition of the chickpeas tonight, which allows the dish to easily stand alone without the addition of another starch, and the obvious fact that last time we made meatballs, while this time we braised some tender lamb chunks. It’s also a bit spicier and a bit less tangy than the meatball dish. Some variety is good! Last note – this, like many other braised/stewed dishes is SO much better the longer you let it sit. Yay leftovers!
Lamb & Chickpea ‘Tagine’
(Inspired by our previous recipe for Tangy Moroccan Meatballs and some additional internet browsing)
- ~2 lb boneless lamb (shoulder, boneless leg), cubed
- Salt & pepper
- 2 tbsp neutral oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 large carrots, sliced
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 2 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp cayenne
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1 medium tomato, chopped
- 1 generous pinch of saffron threads
- 1 1/2 cups beef stock (or lamb if you have access to it)
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 cup kalamata olives, halved
- 1 can (16oz) chickpeas, rinsed & drained
- Fresh cilantro
- Season all sides of the cubed meat generously with salt & pepper.
- Using a tagine if you have one, or a dutch oven if not (like us), heat the oil over medium heat on the stove top. Once hot, brown the meat on all sides and then remove to the side.
- Maintaining medium heat, add the onions, garlic, and carrots to the dish. Cook for ~5 minutes, until softened and becoming fragrant.
- Now stir in the tomato paste, tomato, and all of the spices except for the saffron. Cook for just a minute or two, stirring everything together.
- Now return the meat to the dish, along with the stock, lemon juice, and olives. Adjust the heat to bring to a light simmer with the lid on.
- Cook at that light simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until the meat is nice and tender.
- Remove the lid and increase heat to a more vigorous simmer. Add the chickpeas at this point. Cook for an additional 6-8 minutes with the lid off.
- Taste and add additional salt if desired (we added maybe a 1/2 tsp).
- Serve topped with torn cilantro and an extra squeeze of lemon if you’d like. Eat as a stew alone, though you could also put it atop couscous or rice.
One of the best things about writing this blog is the introduction to foods and dishes that I didn’t know about beforehand. Today, I learned about chermoula! (Or charmoula – like so many words translated from the original Arabic, this one has more than one spelling.) When we decided to make our Tangy Moroccan Meatballs yesterday, I wanted to stick with the flavors of Morocco for the entire dinner. This lead us to this recipe, from a lovely site that I think I’ll visit again – Taste of Maroc.
Chermoula itself is a condiment in the pesto family in terms of texture or consistency. It is traditional to North African countries like Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, and Libya, although the Moroccans claim original ownership. It’s one of those things where there is no one single recipe – there are regional variations, as well as changes from neighbor to neighbor. The basics include fresh herbs (parsley and cilantro), olive oil, and lemon juice. The other ingredients can range from basic spices like cumin, paprika, and coriander to harissa paste to onions or even pureed grapes (Tunisian tradition)! The paprika and cumin additions we used tonight seem to be fairly common in Morocco, at least as my internet perusing has informed me.
These carrots are basically just a vessel for the chermoula. It makes them (and anything else you might feel so inclined to cover with chermoula) into a bright and herbaceous dish. These are a perfect side dish to any meat, especially something that’s heavier or spicy. Furthermore, the flavor and lovely presentation belies the fact that it really takes you no time to prepare the dish. As I was eating (and enjoying!) this last night, I also thought that it probably would be equally as delicious and maybe a little fresher tasting if we’d cooked the carrots and just topped them with the chermoula without cooking the condiment at all. Note to self for next time.
(Adapted from Taste of Maroc)
- 6 large carrots
- ~1 cup chermoula
- 6 cloves garlic, sliced
- 1 1/2 cups fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
- 1 cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp paprika
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 5 turns fresh ground black pepper
- Slice the carrots on the bias, cutting pieces roughly the size of a baby carrot.
- Steam the carrots in a pan. Depending on the size of your pan, add just enough water create a thin layer of water coating the bottom and place over medium heat. Add the carrots and cover with a lid to steam.
- Cook the carrots for ~ 8-10 minutes, until they are al dente.
- Meanwhile (or make ahead!), make the chermoula by combining all of the remaining ingredients in a food processor (or, if you’re cooler than we are and have a mortar & pestle, crush them that way!). Pulse briefly until you have a well-combined, but not obliterated sauce.
- Pour the chermoula into the pan with the carrots. Cook, with the lid on, over low heat for an additional 5 minutes.
As a newbie blogger, I like to think I’m following all of the blogging etiquette rules out there. (Although honestly, I have no idea… I could be committing some blogger faux pas with every post for all I know… someone give us a heads up!) But one thing I do know – because it’s common sense for one – is that you don’t just copy and paste someone else’s content and share it verbatim as your own. Now, if you’ve read our blog prior to today, you’ll notice that we share a healthy mix of personal creations and recipes that originated with others. When we’re using someone else’s recipe, before sharing it on here, we take care to tweak it a bit to our personal and non-copyright-infringing tastes AND to share the recipe in our own words. What does this have to do with anything? Well, the original inspiration for tonight’s dish was a pin I found on Pinterest. It had a gorgeous picture of meatballs in a tagine and the recipe sounded delicious! As I was getting ready to work on the dish for tonight, I found this recipe from the BBC’s Good Food site – it is WORD FOR WORD the exact same as the blog post I originally saved. Ugh! 😡 Maybe it shouldn’t bother me so much, but I like following the rules. And then when I went back and looked at my pin, it appears that the picture in the pin is stolen as well! Double ugh! 😡😡 So I deleted my pin, and we’ll credit the real inspiration instead 😘 Thanks Good Food!
Anyways, back to the recipe! We love meatballs around here! One of these days I’ll share the meatballs I grew up on – very different from these and just about any others I’ve ever had. [Check out our other Bon Appetit Baby meatballs – from our Sultan Selim Kofte & Syrian Mini Meatballs (Dawood Basha) to our Thai Turkey Meatballs!] Tonight’s recipe caught my eye because of the unique (to me at least) ingredients – the lemon and the olives! I’m glad it did, because this recipe is one of my new favorites! It’s slightly spicy, but just beautifully bright and tangy from those olives and lemon. Fancy chefs on TV always talk about balance in dishes, and while I don’t always know how to achieve balance, this recipe definitely has it! You’ve got spice and tang and earthiness and just the slightest hint of sweetness. I think this is why I gravitate towards Middle Eastern/North African dishes – they never just hit one note – they’re always multi-faceted. Whatever you call it, these meatballs are a treat! I ate them over pearl couscous (highly recommend), while Selim just ate them plain and was pretty darn happy! I can also see them being delicious with some fresh baked flatbread. Maybe next time? Because there definitely will be a next time for these!
Tangy Moroccan Meatballs
(Adapted from BBC Good Food)
- 1 large onion, finely chopped – divided
- 1 lb ground lamb
- 1 large lemon (zested & juiced)
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 2 tsp paprika
- 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
- Generous pinch of saffron threads
- 1 tsp cayenne
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 cup beef stock (or lamb if you have access to it)
- 1 cup kalamata olives, halved
- Handful of fresh cilantro, roughly torn
- In a large bowl, combine ~ half of the chopped onion, lamb, lemon zest, cumin, cinnamon, paprika, and parsley. Using your hands, form small meatballs – roughly the size of a ping-pong ball. Set them aside.
- Now, heat the oil in a tagine if you’re cooler than us and have one, or a small dutch oven if you’re not.
- Add the remaining onions, garlic, and ginger. Cook for just 2-3 minutes until starting to soften and become fragrant. Top with the saffron and cook just another additional minute.
- Add the juice from the lemon, cayenne, tomato paste, stock, and olives and bring to a simmer.
- Once the liquid has reached that simmer, lower the heat and gently add the meatballs. Cover and cook on low for 25 minutes. Halfway through, flip the meatballs over.
- Remove the lid and raise the heat back to a simmer. Cook for 10-15 minutes, until the liquid has reduced and thickened. Toss in the cilantro right before serving.
- Serve with couscous or rice.