Lamb tagine – an adaptation of a Moroccan favourite

When I was growing up in my tropical island home of Singapore, I believed that stews were eaten only by Europeans. This preconception probably came from reading western fairy tales and watching movies and television. It was only when I learnt to cook in my late teens that I realised stews are actually prepared around the world in various forms. Usually a cold-weather classic, stews can be savoured any time of year, anywhere. One of my favourite stews is lamb tagine, a staple in every Moroccan restaurant. Tagine, or tajine, is a North African dish named after the earthenware utensil in which it is cooked.

Jamie Oliver once said, “I like to think of a tagine as a sort of stew with attitude.” Having had variations of tagine over the past few decades, I totally agree but I would qualify that line with a “good” before “tagine”. A bad tagine – I have had some – is just a bad stew.

After my inconsistent experiences in restaurants and thereafter attempting various recipes, all claiming to be authentic, I have decided that taste has to trump authenticity. I found the recipe here to be ideal, offering the perfect combination of flavours with that necessary kick often missing from some tagine recipes. This recipe is a combination of at least four recipes from various cookbooks, all of which claim to be authentic. All were good but I felt each recipe on its own lacked that certain something – a spice or flavour I could never quite put my finger on.

I enjoy the process of cooking tagine; I love the whole idea of allowing all the spices to flavour the meat and filling the kitchen with a delicious aroma. It can be quite time-consuming, especially as I make my own passata, so I tend to make it only for small dinner parties when there are no more than eight of us. It is also a hearty dish, so at such parties, I usually serve jsut three light courses, including the tagine.

I do not have a tagine (the cookware) so I use my heavy cast iron pot, although any wide, heavy-bottomed pot will do.

Tagine is typically served with couscous but with the addition of sweet potato, I usually skip the couscous and serve this with a salad and some buttered beans or sautéed spinach instead.

This recipe calls for lamb but I have found beef to be a good substitute.


About Mahita Geekie

Mahita recently returned to Singapore after owning and managing a B&B in Bali. She now indulges in her twin passions of eating and writing. Mahita spent 30 years in advertising and hospitality. She is a sworn lover of Singapore’s street food. She co-founded a small book club which has been going strong for eight years. She is also an animal lover. Mahita is married with two daughters currently in university and 3 great pets–a dog and two cats.