Moroccan Tagine Recipe With Quinces (Safarjal) and Honey

lamb and quince tagine
Lamb and Quince Tagine. Barbara Bonisolli/StockFood Creative/Getty Images
  • 95 mins
  • Prep: 25 mins,
  • Cook: 70 mins
  • Yield: Serves 4 to 6.
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This classic tagine recipe with lamb or beef is an easy, delicious way to take advantage of the unique flavor of the quintessential fall fruit – quinces, or safarjal as they're known in Arabic. As with other Moroccan fruit tagines, this one features savory, aromatic seasoning combined with the sweet flavors of fruit, honey, and cinnamon.

What You'll Need

  • 1 kg (about 2 lbs.) beef or lamb, cut into 2" or 3" pieces
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 3 to 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 or 2 small pieces (2 to 3") of cinnamon stick
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ginger
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon Ras El Hanout
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 small bunch of cilantro (coriander), tied into a bouquet
  • --------------------------
  • 1 to 1 1/2 kg (3 lbs.) quinces
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • --------------------------
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons cooking liquid from the quinces
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons of broth from the meat
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • pinch of salt (optional)

How to Make It

Cook the Meat

  1. Set the saffron and cilantro aside.
  2. Place the meat, onions, garlic, remaining spices, oil and butter in a pressure cooker or heavy-bottomed pot. Stir to mix well, then brown the meat over medium-high heat.
  3. Add the saffron, cilantro and about 3 cups of water.
  4. Cover and cook with pressure for about 45 minutes, or simmer without pressure for an hour and a half, or until the meat is very tender.
  1. Reserve 3 to 4 tablespoons of the broth, then reduce the remaining liquids until the sauce is thick and mostly oils.

Cook the Quinces

  1. While the meat is cooking, prepare the quinces. Peeling is not necessary, but you may do so. Cut them into quarters or eighths (small quinces may be cut only in half), then core them.
  2. Put the finished sections of quince into a bowl of water as you work to avoid their turning brown.
  3. Drain the quinces and transfer them to a skillet or pot.
  4. Cover with fresh water, add a teaspoon of sugar and bring to a boil.
  5. Simmer gently for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the quinces are tender but still firm enough to hold their shape.
  6. Drain the quinces, reserving several tablespoons of the poaching liquid in the pot.
  7. Add the reserved broth, butter, cinnamon, sugar, honey, and salt. Bring to a simmer and cook until thick syrup forms.
  8. Occasionally stir or turn the quinces to coat them with the syrup on all sides. (Note that using a skillet will allow the quinces to glaze in the syrup without breaking during stirring evenly.)

To Serve

  1. Discard the cilantro. Place the meat and sauce on a serving platter. Arrange the quinces all around, spooning the syrup over the meat and fruit.
  2. Serve tagines with Moroccan bread or another crusty bread for scooping everything up.

Recipe Tips

While some recipes for quince tagine might call for a smaller ratio of quinces to meat, I prefer lots of fruit in this particular dish. The quantity of fruit is easily adjusted. Beef and lamb are most popular, but goat is common in some regions. Pieces of meat on the bone will give the most flavor. You may also use chicken; adjust cooking time accordingly.

I like to include a little Ras El Hanout in the seasoning. If you omit this, try adding a tiny pinch of nutmeg and one or two cloves. Cooking time is for a pressure cooker. Allow more time if preparing the stew in a pot.

Tips for Cooking in a Tagine

  • To prepare the dish in a traditional tagine, slice one of the onions instead of chopping it; do not separate the rings of onion. Arrange the onion slices on the bottom of a tagine and scatter the chopped onion over them. Arrange the meat on the onions then add the oil, butter, seasoning, cilantro and about 3 cups of water. Cover and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, using a diffuser under a clay or ceramic tagine if your heat source is something other than gas.
  • Cook the tagine until the meat is tender and the liquids are reduced, between two and three hours for beef; sometimes longer for lamb or large pieces of meat. Add more water during the cooking if you feel too much has evaporated. 
  • Follow the directions above for cooking the quinces. When ready, add the quinces and syrup directly to the tagine, which will double as your serving dish.