Moroccan Lamb Tagine with Fennel and Dates
The combination of meat, sweet vegetables and fruits is very typical of Moroccan cookery – the sweetness being offset by the use of spice and cayenne pepper. Serve this with plain couscous.
1 fennel bulb
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 red onion thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic thinly sliced (the Le Creuset garlic slicer/grater does this best)
1-1/2 pounds lamb shoulder cut in 1-1/2” cubes and dried with paper towels
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cumin seed*
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Kosher or sea salt to taste
1 cup pitted, chopped dates
2 cups filtered spring water
Fresh cilantro (coriander) to garnish
Trim coarse stalks from fennel, halve the bulb, and remove any tough core, then thinly slice each half (a mandoline does this best).
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in the tagine base.
Add the onion, fennel slices and garlic and cook until all are just beginning to brown.
Transfer to a plate and reserve.
Add the remaining oil to the base and brown a few pieces of the lamb at a time using tongs to turn the meat.
When all of the meat is browned return the meat to the tagine base.
Combine all of the spices and salt in a small bowl.
Sprinkle over the meat and stir well.
Continue to cook for 1 minute over medium heat.
Return the vegetables together with the dates and half of the water (1 cup) to the tagine base and stir well.
Cover with conical lid and cook very gently over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally for 2 to 2-1/2 hours.
The spices will thicken the liquid as the dish cooks – add the remaining 1 cup of water little by little as necessary during the cooking process.
*For maximum flavor, before cooking add 1/2 tablespoon of cumin seeds to the tagine base placed over low heat. Toss for about 2 minutes or until seeds darken slightly and become aromatic. Add them to a spice mill or mortar and pestle and grind them, then use in the recipe.