Moroccan Berber Tagine with Lamb or Beef and Vegetables

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Moroccan Berber Tagine with Vegetables. Photo © Christine Benlafquih
  • 3 hrs 55 mins
  • Prep: 25 mins,
  • Cook: 3 hrs 30 mins
  • Yield: Serves 4.
Ratings (8)

Moroccan tagines that combine meat and vegetables make wonderful one-dish meals to offer at family dinners or when entertaining casually. They can be slow-cooked on the stove, or prepped indoors and then cooked outside over charcoal for backyard dining or at beach outings and picnics

Berber style tagines such as this one are distinguished not only by the seasoning, but also by the presentation of ingredients. The vegetables are carefully arranged in conical fashion around the beef or lamb, fully concealing the meat in an artistic, appetizing manner.

Although many of the tagine recipes on this site include directions for alternative preparations in a pot or pressure cooker, this one is best slowly cooked in the traditional clay or ceramic vessel from which it takes its name. The seasoning below is ideal when using potatoes as the dominant ingredient, but other vegetables are added for color and complimentary flavor. Here I'm recommending carrots and zucchini, but either or both can be replaced with fresh peas, green beans, sliced tomatoes, turnips or other veggies you might have on hand. 

Preserved lemon and olives are classic additions and do add distinctive flavor and some saltiness, but may be omitted if you don't have them on hand. Adjust salt accordingly. If using chicken instead of red meat, see the tips below.

The tagine serves as both the cooking vessel and serving dish; diners gather round and eat from their own side of the tagine using Moroccan bread (khobz) in place of a utensil. 

What You'll Need

  • 1 lb. beef or lamb, cut into 2" to 3" pieces
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 or 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped or pressed
  • 3 or 4 small to medium potatoes, quartered lengthwise
  • 3 or 4 medium carrots, halved or quartered lengthwise
  • 4 very small zucchini, whole (optional; or may use other veggies)
  • 1 small bell pepper (any color), cut into strips or rings
  • small handful of parsley and/or cilantro, tied into a bouquet
  • 1 small jalapeno or chili pepper (optional)
  • 1 small preserved lemon, quartered
  • handful of green or red (violet) olives
  • For the Seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
  • pinch of saffron threads (optional)

How to Make It

1. Pour the olive oil into the base of a tagine. Arrange the onion rings across the bottom and scatter the chopped onion and garlic on top. Arrange the meat, bone-side down, in a mound in the center of the tagine. (The taller the mound, the more conical your arrangement of vegetables will be.)

2. Combine the spices in a small bowl. Sprinkle a little less than half of the seasoning over the meat and onions.

 

3. Place the prepped vegetables in a large bowl. Add the remaining seasoning and toss to coat the vegetables evenly. Arrange the vegetables in a conical shape around the meat.

4. Arrange the bell pepper strips in the center and top with the parsley bouquet and then the jalapeno pepper, Garnish the tagine with the preserved lemon quarters and olives.

5. Add 2 1/2 cups water to the empty bowl and swirl to rinse the residual spices. Add the water to the tagine, cover, and place the tagine over medium coals in a brazier, or stove top over medium-low heat. (Note that use of a diffuser under the tagine is necessary if using clay or ceramic on an electric stove and recommended for other heat sources as well.)

6. Leave the tagine to reach a simmer. (This may take a long time, 20 minutes or so; be cautious in feeling the need to increase the heat.) Once simmering, continue cooking the tagine over medium-low heat until the meat and vegetables are very tender and the sauce is reduced, up to 3 hours for beef and up to 4 hours for lamb. 

7. While the tagine is cooking, you may check the level of the liquids occasionally and add a little water as necessary, but otherwise, try not disturb the tagine. Do stay alerted for the smell of anything burning, and lower the heat if necessary to avoid scorching ingredients and/or cracking the tagine. (It is normal, however, for some of the base onions to burn and adhere to the bottom of the tagine as they caramelize and reduce.)

8. Remove the cooked tagine from the heat and serve. It will stay warm while covered for 30 minutes.

Tips for Cooking Berber Tagine with Chicken

If you want to use chicken in place of lamb or beef, you may leave the skin on or remove it; arrange the chicken meat-side (or skin-side) up. Cooking directions will basically remain the same, except that you should reduce the water to 1 1/2 cups and reduce the cooking time to 2 hours, or until the veggies test done. To compensate for the shorter cooking time, it may be helpful use smaller potatoes and carrots, and to briefly parboil legumes such as peas and green beans before adding them to the tagine.