Moroccan Lamb or Beef Tagine with Dates

Moroccan Tagine of Lamb or Beef with DatesMoroccan Tagine of Lamb or Beef with Dates. Photo © Christine Benlafquih
  • 85 mins
  • Prep: 15 mins,
  • Cook: 70 mins
  • Yield: Serves 4 to 6
Ratings (10)

This easy Moroccan tagine features meat cooked until tender with saffron, ginger, and pepper, and then topped by soft dates in a cinnamon-flavored syrup. Sesame seeds and fried almonds are traditional garnishes.

Medjool dates are recommended for this dish, but other firm, chewy dates can be used. Ras el Hanout and white pepper are optional seasonings. Tagine with Dates should be served with Moroccan bread for scooping everything up.

The cooking time is for a pressure cooker; double this time if cooking in a conventional pot and triple it if cooking in a ceramic or clay tagine. Also, try Chicken with Dates and Honey.

What You'll Need

  • 1 kg (2 lb. 3 oz) tender lamb or beef, cut into two- or three-inch pieces
  • 2 medium onions, grated
  • 3 cloves of garlic, pressed or finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric (or 1/4 teaspoon Moroccan yellow colorant)
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon Ras El Hanout (optional)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil or butter
  • Small handful of cilantro sprigs, tied into a bouquet
  • 1 1/2 cups of dates (such as Medjool)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar (or honey)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds (optional)
  • Handful of fried almonds (optional)

How to Make It

  1. In a large pot or pressure cooker, mix the meat with the onions, garlic, spices, and oils. Brown the meat for a few minutes over medium heat.
  2. Add 2 1/2 cups of water and the cilantro. Over high heat, bring the meat and liquids to a fast simmer.
  3. Pressure cooker method. If using a pressure cooker, cover tightly and continue heating until pressure is achieved. Reduce the heat to medium, and cook with pressure for 45 to 50 minutes. (Note: About halfway through cooking, remove and reserve 1/2 cup of the liquids.) After the meat has cooked, release the pressure and reduce the sauce, uncovered, until it is mostly oils and onion.

    Pot Method:

    1. If using a pot, cover and simmer the meat over medium heat for two to two-and-half hours, until the meat is very tender and breaks away easily from the bone. (Note: About halfway through cooking, remove and reserve 1/2 cup of the liquids.) If necessary, add a small amount of water during cooking to prevent the meat from scorching.
    2. When the meat has cooked, reduce the sauce until it is mostly oil and onions.

    Clay or Ceramic Tagine Method:

    1. Slice one of the onions instead of grating it, and layer the onion rings on the bottom of the tagine.
    2. Mix the meat with the grated onion, garlic, oils and spices, and arrange the mixture on top of the onion rings.
    3. Add 2 1/2 cups water, cover, and place the tagine on a diffuser over medium-low to medium heat. Allow the tagine to reach a simmer (this may take a long time), and then reduce the heat to the lowest temperature necessary to maintain the simmer.
    4. Allow the tagine to cook for three hours or longer until the meat is very tender and the liquids are reduced. (Note: About two hours into the cooking, remove and reserve 1/2 cup of the liquids.)

    Simmer the Dates:

    1. While the meat is cooking, remove the pits from the dates. Put the pitted dates in a small pot with the liquids reserved from the meat.
    2. Stir in the sugar and cinnamon, and simmer the dates gently for 5 to 10 minutes, or until they are sitting in a thick syrup.

    To Serve:

    1. Put the meat and sauce on a large serving platter, and spoon the dates and syrup on top.
    2. If desired, garnish with fried almonds and/or sesame seeds. (Note: If you cooked the dish in a tagine, the vessel will double as a serving dish; simply add the dates and syrup to the tagine at serving time.)