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SSS #5 - Lamb Tagine with Fennel & Olives


Our assignment this week was Goat Tagine with Fennel & Olives. I just couldn't force myself to use goat meat, and here is why.

So, my dish will use lamb instead of goat. I thought sure my local supermarket would have lamb shanks, so I didn't do my shopping until yesterday. Lo and behold, no lamb shanks! They did have some lamb shoulder blade chops, so I used that. My dish won't look like all of the rest, but hopefully, the flavors will be close.

Deborah of Old Shoes - New Trip chose this week's category (slow cooker) and picked the recipe. Here it is:

Lamb Tagine with Fennel and Olives

6 meaty lamb shanks
Sea Salt
Freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, sliced in half lengthwise, then into 1/4-inch slices lengthwise
2 medium bulbs of fennel, cut in half lengthwise, then into 1/4-inch slices lengthwise
1 large pinch of saffron threads, lightly finger-crushed
6 medium garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons freshly toasted, ground coriander seed
1 teaspoons freshly toasted, ground cumin
2 teaspoons freshly toasted, ground fennel seed
3 tablespoons honey
3/4 cup fresh tomato peeled and chopped, or good boxed/canned chopped tomatoes
4 cups of chicken stock or water
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 bunch fresh coriander (cilantro), stem and all, tied with butcher string
1/2 cup oil-cured olives
1 large preserved lemon, rinsed and quartered

Preheat oven to 375. Salt and pepper the lamb shanks. Brown them over medium-high heat in a large, deep casserole that will fit all the meat and go in the oven. Remove shanks from the pan and add olive oil, onions and half the fennel and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the saffron, garlic, ginger and all spices and cook another 5 minutes. Add the honey and tomatoes and cook a few minutes. Add stock and tuck shanks back into pot along with the cinnamon stick and tied cilantro. Bring to a simmer. Cover and braise in the oven until tender, about 3 hours. Check every so often; add more liquid if necessary. Add olives, lemon and remaining fennel to the stew the last 15 minutes of cooking. It is finished when the fennel is tender and the meat is buttery and falling off the bone. Taste and season as necessary.

I used Amy's recipe to make quick preserved lemons. I rinsed them off several times today, but they were still really, really salty. I am wondering how the purchased jars of preserved lemon tasted - salty? Are the jarred lemons whole? I think they might turn out better that way - the recipe I used had you cut them up before preserving.

I didn't get the right kind of olives, I guess - everyone else's photos show black olives - probably Kalamata. None at my supermarket (I wish TJ's was closer), so I got what I could, and you will see big green olives in my tagine. I served the tagine with basmati rice.

So, this was a week of compromises - lamb instead of goat, lamb shoulder blade chops instead of lamb shanks, homemade preserved lemons, and green olives instead of black. The result, though, was a very tasty dish. All of the spices combined well with the lamb.

I do want to try the recipe again with lamb shanks. Thank you, Deborah, for this unusual recipe!


Here is an alternate recipe that I considered making. I found it on Culinate.com:

Tunisian Lamb Tagine with Toasted Almonds and Couscous

From the book Art of the Slow Cooker by Andrew Schloss
Serves 6 to 8
Prep Time 20 minutes
Total Time 4 hours

The stews of North Africa are known as tagines (also spelled tajines), after the conical ceramic vessel in which they are traditionally made. The lid of a tagine is tall, causing the steam coming off of the stew to cool at its upper reaches and precipitate back into the vessel, so that none of the aroma or flavor is lost during cooking. This is exactly what happens in a slow cooker.

The flavors in this tagine are classic Berber: cumin, coriander, cinnamon, and pepper, which have been cultivated for thousands of years by these ancient peoples in the mountain and desert regions of Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia. Ground toasted almonds thicken the broth in the last minutes of cooking. The tagine is traditionally served with couscous.


2 lb. lamb cubes for stew
~ Kosher salt
4 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 lb. parsnips (about 5), peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1½-inch chunks
2 celery ribs, cut into 1-inch-thick slices
2 onions, cut into 1-inch cubes
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. ground cumin, preferably ground from whole seeds toasted in a dry skillet
1 Tbsp. ground coriander
½ tsp. ground allspice
1½ cups beef broth
1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes, with their juice
1 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper
1 cinnamon stick, about 3 inches long
1 dried red chile pepper
¼ cup ground toasted almonds
~ Juice and finely grated zest of ½ lemon

2½ cups water
2 cups couscous
¼ cup chopped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley or fresh cilantro, or a mixture of the two, for garnish

1. Season the lamb liberally with salt to taste. Heat 2 Tbsp. of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and brown the lamb lightly in batches, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer each batch to a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker after it has browned.
2. Add another tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet. Add the parsnips, sweet potatoes, celery, and onions, and sauté until lightly browned and barely tender, about 4 minutes. Stir in the garlic, cumin, coriander, and allspice, and cook until the vegetables are coated and the spices are aromatic, about 1 minutes. Transfer to the cooker.
3. Add the beef broth to the skillet and heat to boiling, scraping up any browned bits clinging to the bottom of the pan; pour into the cooker.
4. Add the tomatoes to the cooker and stir gently to combine. Add the black pepper, cinnamon stick, and chile pepper, submerging the cinnamon and chile. Cover the cooker and cook for 3 to 4 hours on high, or 6 to 8 hours on low, until fork-tender.
5. While the stew is cooking, mix the almonds, lemon juice, and zest in a small bowl.
6. When the stew is done, remove the cinnamon stick and chile pepper. Stir in the almond mixture and cook on high until slightly thickened, about 15 minutes.
7. At the same time, bring the remaining 1 Tbsp. olive oil and the water to a boil in a large saucepan. Stir in the couscous until fully moistened, cover, remove from the heat, and let rest for 5 minutes.
8. Serve the stew on a bed of couscous and sprinkle with chopped parsley and/or cilantro.


For a chicken tagine, substitute boneless chicken thighs for the lamb and eliminate the allspice.

Tagines can also be served on any small pasta, such as orzo or acini de pepe, or with toasted couscous. To make toasted couscous, heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add 2 cups Israeli couscous (also known as pearl or super couscous) and sauté until lightly toasted, about 3 minutes. Add 3 3/4 cups boiling water and salt and pepper to taste. Reduce the heat to medium, cover, and simmer until the liquid is absorbed, about 12 minutes.

Culinate editor’s notes: If you don’t have a slow cooker, simply treat this dish as an ordinary braise. Brown the meat and vegetables in a large Dutch oven instead of in a skillet, then add the liquids and simmer until the stew is done.

The vegetables in this recipe are flexible; try, for example, replacing some of the parsnips, sweet potatoes, and onions with carrots, regular potatoes, and squash.

If the stew seems too thin at the end, add a tablespoon or two of tomato paste to thicken it.

You can also serve this stew over any small whole grain, such as millet, quinoa, or bulgur.

This content is from the book Art of the Slow Cooker by Andrew Schloss.

Comments (2)

Nancy, I thought about The Goatboys when I saw this recipe on Slow Talk, and wondered what you would do. I want to try to make those preserved lemons sometime.

Barb Cabot:

Nancy totally "get" the non goat thing. I think your recipe sounds wonderful. I am going to try.

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