Moroccan Lamb or Beef Recipe with Almonds and Rice

lamb and almonds on bed of rice
Amelia Johnson/arabianEye/Getty Images
  • 90 mins
  • Prep: 20 mins,
  • Cook: 70 mins
  • Yield: Serves 4.
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While most Moroccan tagines are served with Moroccan bread for dipping in and scooping up meat and sauce, this particular dish is traditionally offered with rice, which yields a presentation similar to kabsa. Since ample sauce is desired for serving the meat over rice, a conventional pot or pressure cooker is usually the cooking vessel of choice.  

Crunchy, nutty fried almonds are often used to garnish Moroccan dishes, but here blanched almonds are stewed with the meat, yielding a soft texture and milder flavor. If you prefer more crunch as I do, the almonds may be fried or toasted instead; see the tips at the end of the directions. 

Some recipes exclude the ginger and cinnamon seasoning, but I recommend them for a zestier sauce. I also choose to lightly sweeten both the sauce and flavor the rice; these steps, too, are optional. Plain white medium or long grain rice is certainly fine to use.

Cooking time is for a pressure cooker. Allow two hours or more if cooking conventionally. For similar flavors without the rice, try a Tagine with Almonds and Onions.

What You'll Need

  • 1 kilogram (2 pounds, 3 ounces) lamb or beef, cut into two- or three-inch pieces
  • 2 large onions, grated or very thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, pressed or finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ginger (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 or 2 pieces of cinnamon stick (optional)
  • 1/3 cup butter or vegetable oil
  • A small handful of cilantro sprigs, tied into a bouquet
  • 100 gram (1 cup) almonds, blanched and peeled
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  • 1 to 2 tablespoons honey (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
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  • 2 cups medium or long-grained rice
  • 4 1/4 cups water (or part or all broth)
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 teaspoons salt (reduce or omit if using broth)
  • Pepper and ginger to taste
  • Several saffron threads, optional
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (optional)

How to Make It

Cook the Meat and Almonds

  1. In a large pot or pressure cooker, mix the meat with the onions, garlic, spices, and butter. Brown the meat for a few minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
  2. Add 2 1/2 to 3 cups of water, the cilantro, and the almonds. (You can omit cooking the almonds and serve them as a garnish instead. See the note at the end of these directions.) Over high heat, bring the meat and liquids to a fast simmer.

    Pressure Cooker Method

    1. If using a pressure cooker, cover tightly and continue cooking over high heat until pressure is achieved.
    2. Reduce the heat to medium, and cook with pressure for 50 minutes.
    3. Release the pressure and check to see that the meat is tender enough to break apart with a fork.
    4. If it isn't, add water if necessary and cook with pressure for another 10 minutes.
    5. When the meat is cooked, discard the cilantro and cinnamon stick. Add the sugar and ground cinnamon (if using) and reduce the sauce, uncovered, until it is thick.
    6. Taste and adjust seasoning.

    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 apart easily with a fork. If necessary, add water during cooking to prevent the meat from scorching.
    2. When the meat is cooked, discard the cilantro and cinnamon stick. Add the sugar and ground cinnamon (if using) and reduce the sauce, uncovered, until it is thick.
    3. Taste and adjust seasoning.

    Cook the Rice

    1. Prepare the rice while the meat and almonds are stewing. Place 4 1/4 cups water or broth in a pot. Add the salt, butter, sugar and rice and bring to a boil. Stir, cover the pot and reduce the heat to low.
    2. Cook the rice, undisturbed, for about 25 minutes or until the rice is tender and the liquids are absorbed.
    3. Remove from the heat and keep covered to hold warm until serving time.

    To Serve

    1. Toss the rice with a fork and arrange it into a mound on a large platter.
    2. Make a well in the center and add the meat.
    3. Spoon the almonds and sauce over the meat and rice and serve immediately. Moroccan tradition is to gather communally around the serving dish, with each person eating from his own side of the platter.

    Tips

    • If you prefer a crunchy texture to the almonds, you can fry them or toast them in a 350° F (180° C) oven for 10 to 12 minutes, until lightly colored. This can be done a day in advance or while the meat is cooking. Scatter the almonds over the meat and rice just before serving.
    • For extra flavorful rice, use broth from the meat. Plan for this by adding an extra 4 cups of water and double the seasoning to the meat. Interrupt the cooking of the meat after 30 minutes of pressure cooking (or after an hour to hour-and-a-half of conventional cooking) to ladle out the broth needed for the rice. Continue cooking the meat until tender and the remaining sauce has reduced.