Spiced Lamb Tagine with Currants and Israeli Couscous
A North African tagine typically features slow-cooked meat, braised until it is tender. This richly textured stew is brimming with exotic spices, a touch of heat, and a hint of sweetness. The heady aromas that arise from the pol remind us of the shouk—or marketplace—in Jerusalem, where spice merchants line the ancient corridors of commerce. You can easily find all the spices in this recipe on the spice rack at your local supermarket too. Israeli couscous is a large-grain, round-shaped pasta widely enjoyed in Israel. It has a growing following in the United States as well.
In your glass, a fruity red wine will provide a complementary pairing to the currants. Pinot Noir and Zinfandel might be your best bets. Syrah could work well too. But don’t rule out more herbaceous varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or Malbec. They will also have their charm.
- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon saffron threads
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2 pounds lamb shoulder, cut into 1½-inch cubes
- ½ cup dried currants
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons plus 2½ cups water
- 2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
- 5 medium carrots, cut into 1-inch lengths
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 4 cups chicken stock or store-bought low-sodium chicken broth
- 2 cups Israeli couscous
- ½ cup minced fresh cilantro
- In a small bowl, combine the cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, cayenne, saffron and ½ teaspoon salt. Mix thoroughly. Place the lamb on a large plate and sprinkle the spice mixture over it. Place the seasoned lamb in a zip-seal plastic bag, close the bag and massage the lamb to evenly to coat the meat with the spices. Refrigerate for 4 to 6 hours. Remove the lamb from the refrigerator 15 minutes prior to cooking.
- Place the currants in a small bowl and cover with warm water. Set aside. In a Dutch oven or heavy-duty pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Working in batches if necessary, sear the lamb on all sides, about 2 minutes per side. Remove the seared meat from the pot and set aside on a plate.
- Add 2 tablespoons water to the pot and use a wooden spoon to scrape lip any browned bits that have formed or might be sticking on the surface. Add the onions and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the carrots, stir to coat with the onion mixture, and cook for 2 minutes. Drain the water from the currants and add them to the pot. Stir in the tomato paste. Add the chicken broth and stir to mix well. Return the lamb to the pot, add 1 teaspoon salt, and mix well. Increase the heat to high, bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and partially cover the pot, leaving a small sliver of space open at the top. Simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
- Uncover and simmer for another 30 minutes to thicken the sauce.
- In a medium pot, lightly salt 2½ cups water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the Israeli couscous, stir and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and cook until all the water is absorbed, about 8 minutes.
- To serve, place ½ cup couscous in a wide, shallow soup bowl. Top with the lamb, the carrots and a generous portion of sauce from the pot. Garnish with cilantro and pepper.
- Reprinted with permission from The Covenant Kitchen: Food and Wine for the New Jewish Table by Jeff and Jodie Morgan (Schocken Books, 2015).