Lamb tagine

Our butcher shouts with laughter if you ask him for six or even four lamb shanks — he only buys one or two lambs at a time, so the number of shanks is strictly limited. Luckily that palace of frozen food, Picard, always has a plentiful supply of frozen New Zealand lamb, with shanks in packs of two. Cooked until falling off the bone, they are a really delicious morsel and go particularly well with dried fruit, as the famous seven-hour lamb from Le Manchon d’Henri demonstrated.

This tajine is very special too; a concentrated, spicy sauce with the rich flavours of prunes, apricots and figs, and meltingly tender meat. If you can’t get shanks, you could just use cubed leg or shoulder. Serve it with couscous (of course). This dish makes me wonder why we don’t eat more North African food.

6 lamb shanks
12 dried apricots
6 dried figs
6 prunes
50 g sultanas or dried cranberries
50 g blanched almonds
50 g cashew nuts
2 onions
3 tbs runny honey
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ras-el-hanout (North African spice mixture)
1 pinch saffron
1 pinch cumin
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper

Peel and slice the onions. Heat the oil in a large fireproof casserole or tagine and brown the meat on all sides. Remove and add the onions. Cook gently until softened, then add 300 ml hot water. Return the meat to the casserole with all the spices, salt and pepper. Simmer covered for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180C. Add all the fruit and the honey to the casserole and cook in the oven for a further hour. Toast the nuts lightly in a frying pan, and add ten minutes before the end of cooking time.

8 thoughts to “Lamb tagine”

  1. This lamb dish sounds really awesome! I will tty this after I get the Irish stew down.

    And thanks for the lamb stew tip too! I can’t wait to try it out.

    What’s your opinion on buying lamb sirloin steaks?
    I get them for a good price and the meat is always tender.
    Is there something I am missing out on by not buying shanks?

    e-mail me so I have your e-mail.

    Okay, have a great day or evening. 🙂

  2. Hi Ivy

    and thanks for the comments! I think lamb steaks and shanks serve different purposes. As I mentioned, shanks are hard to find here, and I only ever cook them long and slow, with a nice spicy/sweet sauce. In my opinion it’s a crime to overcook leg, cutlets et al.– they should still be pink in the middle 🙂

    So I wouldn’t do this recipe with those cuts; I would grill or roast them instead. Another cut that’s good for long, slow cooking is shoulder, so you could use that if you can’t get shanks.

  3. Hi Veronica,

    Thanks for the tip about Picard! Our nearest is Montauban but when we’re passing en route for Toulouse airport, it’s ideal! Hadn’t thought about using shanks for a tagine but it will certainly be added to the repertoire!

    Happy singing,


  4. I love Picard 🙂 Their stuff is amazing quality and very reasonably priced. Even their ready meals are good. There’s one in Narbonne which I pass every week on my way home from yoga class, so it’s very handy, but luckily we have a small freezer so I can’t go mad in there.

  5. Am also replying to thank you for the tip about Picard. I always thought they’d be like the frozen food places in the UK – full of e-number icecream and the like. I suppose they don’t do proper smoked haddock, too? It’s amazing what you start missing when it’s not on tap.

    Love your blog – followed the link from ‘The Cottage Smallholder’ while waiting for their recipe for Chilli Jelly to come to the boil…. but I’ll be back!

  6. Hi Sarah

    Thanks for your comment, and welcome to my blog! Picard is really excellent — although I’ve never seen proper smoked haddock there, or anywhere else in France (I miss it too!).

  7. Thank you for sharing this delicious recipe. I varied the method a little bit, since I was using cut-up lamb steak instead of the shanks, and varied the amounts of the fruits and onion to our taste, but other than that I followed the recipe as written. We enjoyed it and will make it again!

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