In this Moroccan tagine, the addition of fennel (bisbas or besbas in Arabic) adds delicate flavor and subtle contrast to the classic preparation of lamb with peas, saffron, and ginger. Beef or goat may be substituted for the lamb.
This dish is often prepared in a pressure cooker, but the directions also include instructions for preparation in a conventional pot or traditional tagine. The cooking time reflects a Moroccan preference for peas stewed until very tender, allowing them to fully absorb the flavorful sauce.
Cooking time is for a pressure cooker; double the time indicated if using a conventional pot and triple it if slow cooking in a tagine.
- 1 lb. (about 1/2 kg) lamb, beef or goat
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped or pressed
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons ginger
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (coriander)
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 pound (about 1/2 kg) peas
- 1 pound (about 1/2 kg) fennel bulbs, halved or quartered*
*To prep the fennel for cooking, peel off the outer layer or two from the bulbs, and cut off the thickest part (but not all) of the base before halving or quartering them.
Pressure Cooker or Conventional Pot Method
- Place the meat, onions, garlic, olive oil, parsley, cilantro, and spices (except for the saffron) in a pressure cooker or large pot; stir to combine the meat with the spices and herbs.
- Cook over medium to medium-high heat, uncovered, for about 10 minutes, stirring several times to turn the meat and brown it on all sides.
- Add about 3 cups of water, cover, and increase the heat to high. If using a pressure cooker, bring to pressure then cook over medium heat for about 30 minutes. (If using a conventional pot, bring the liquids to a boil. Reduce to a simmer then cook the meat for an hour or a little longer.)
- Interrupt the cooking at this point to add the peas, fennel, and saffron. If the peas are not fully covered in liquid, add a little more water. Cover, bring back to pressure and cook for another 10 to 15 minutes (or simmer conventionally for 20 to 30 minutes) until the veggies are quite tender.
- Check for seasoning and if necessary, reduce the liquids until a rich sauce has formed. Remove from the heat and serve.
Clay or Ceramic Tagine Method
- Scatter the onions, garlic, spices and herbs across the bottom of the tagine.
- Arrange the meat (bone side down) in the center and then arrange the peas and fennel around the meat.
- Add 3 cups of water, cover and place the tagine on a diffuser over medium-low heat. Allow the tagine to slowly reach a simmer then cook for 2 1/2 to 3 hours (lamb may take longer) until the meat is very tender, and the liquids are reduced to a thick sauce.
- During the cooking, you may add a little water if you feel it's necessary, but otherwise, leave the tagine undisturbed and avoid the temptation to cook with a higher heat.
- Serve directly from the tagine, which will hold the food warm for up to an hour.
The dish is traditionally served with Moroccan bread which is used for scooping up the meat and vegetables.