Lamb Moroccan-Style


French cuisine, at least a small corner of it, was infiltrated by North African forces beginning in the 1920s. Morocco had become a protectorate and a very stylish destination, and suddenly everybody who was anybody came back praising the virtues of tagines rich with lamb and fragrant with uncommon spices. We have a great affection for the country too, having lived there for several years—a life-changing experience, I assure you. So it was a pleasant surprise to stumble across a startlingly practical version of traditional lamb tagine in the pages of Mapie de Toulouse-Lautrec’s La Cuisine de France (Orion, 1961).

Last night's menu: sautéed lamb with lemons, braised endive, and peas cooked in butter.

Instead of using the conical ceramic cooking vessel traditional in Moroccan homes, the dish, sautée d’agneau au citron (sautéed lamb with lemon) is simply prepared in a heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid. Thanks to junk-shop journeys we own a large covered cast-iron pot of uncertain provenance that worked wonderfully. Presumably a Le Creuset version would do the job just as well. In any case the sautéed lamb with lemon was shockingly delicious, almost as good as the tagines our beloved cook in Marrakech used to prepare when we lived there—even though for our dinner last night my husband could only find lamb chops at the market instead of the boned lamb shoulder specified in the recipe. The substitution worked like a charm. And it was almost embarrassingly easy. The side dishes we made to go with it were peas lightly cooked in butter and sublime braised endives, which I could have eaten all night, frankly.

A slightly blurry view of last night's meal, as plated on vintage 1970s earthenware.

SAUTEÉ D’AGNEAU AU CITRON

SOURCE: La Cuisine de France by Mapie de Toulouse-Lautrec (Orion, 1961)

Serves 8 people

2-1/2 pounds boned shoulder of lamb

4 tablespoons oil

1 lemon

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1 large pinch saffron OR 3 teaspoons turmeric

Salt and pepper

Order the lamb cut for stew. Heat the oil in a deep pan and brown the meat on all sides.

Slice the lemon very thin and spread all of it—except the ends—on the meat. Add a cup of hot water and season with cinnamon, saffron or turmeric, salt, and pepper. Cover tightly and simmer 1 hour.

ENDIVES BRAISÉES

SOURCE: La Cuisine de France by Mapie de Toulouse-Lautrec (Orion Press, 1961)

Serve 4 people

3 pounds endive

6 tablespoons butter

Salt and pepper

Wash and wipe the endives dry. Put them in a covered heavy saucepan with the butter. Season with salt and pepper and simmer very gently for 3 hours. Watch to see that they are evenly browned.

NOTE: We cooked the endive for 1 hour only, on the lowest flame possible, because they seemed to be getting brown much faster than we expected. The abbreviated cooking time was fine; the result was delicious. Our advice is to follow our lead—cook the endives for 1 hour rather than 3 hours.

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16 comments on “Lamb Moroccan-Style

  1. Charlotte says:

    This sounds wonderful and well within my “60-Minute Gourmet” abilities! What did you drink with it?

    • A red that was just hanging around in the pantry, Salmon Creek Merlot 2007. A vin ordinaire! Drinkable but nothing dazzling by any means. Does anybody have a favourite vin ordinaire that acquits itself nicely as a household table wine?

  2. Elizabeth Forshaw says:

    Lovely!! A bit of searing, then leaving things to braise makes for a tasty meal and an easy life!

    No doubt the tagine was all the better for using the lamb chops, Aesthete, because of the flavour from the bones. I love how you talk about using what is available (a pot rather than the tagine, lamb chops rather than the shoulder). We sometimes forget that great meals have been prepared with surprisingly little equipment for centuries, using only what was available locally or in season.

    This meal reminds me of a lamb dish my Greek born mother makes. The lamb is seasoned and braised in the same way, with lemon but minus the cinnamon, turmeric or saffron. When cooked, she adds a head of chopped Romaine lettuce, a few sliced spring onions and chopped dill. Everything wilts down in the juices and become incredibly sweet after a short time.

    The dish is rather pleasingly called “Spring Tonic” – and it was a very welcome change from the heavier winter meals when people could only eat in season. Sometimes it is made with spinach, asparagus or cooked artichokes.

    • I think I’m going to have to make Spring Tonic myself, Elizabeth! Re using what’s around—I think that’s what scares people about cooking. That one has to have the precise equipment. One doesn’t. One makes do.

  3. columnist says:

    Here’s avery easy recipe for lamb:

    1 de-boned shoulder, rubbed with extra virgin olive oil, rosemary, placed in a roasting tin, with garlic cloves, (don’t need to peel, or crush). Place in pre- heated oven at 170C, for 4 hours, cover with foil, (or lid if you have one that fits), et voila. Serve with roasted potatoes, (which put in for 1 hour), gravy, and another green vegetable. The oven does all the work.

  4. Charlotte says:

    Darn! I was hoping to see lots of suggestions on a good, affordable week night wine. This is something we struggle with especially after we drink our “nicer” bottles on the weekend. I stoped by our local wine merchant yesterday and bought several French and Italian reds in the $11-$18 range. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to me, my husband was searching online and put together a case in the same price range. We’ll report back if we turn up anything worth mentioning! Keep up the great posts! Cheers!

  5. Tagine! My mouth waters. I’ve stayed away from trying one out because of the cooking vessel that I thought it required. I have a “fait-tout” sized Le Creuset and now I have a mission!

  6. That’s it, out goes the gumbo on the menu for Saturday and Tagine it is! Mrs. E. cast the deciding vote. And that Spring Tonic sounds delicious, too.

  7. Fantastic and easy to make dish. Also very easy to devour as there was barely a morsel of meat left after the party. Stumbled upon a 6 1/2 lb leg of lamb. I took the meat off the bone and cubed it. Fed eight of us. Thought I had peas and didn’t, so it was served alongside longrain rice and lentils simmered with minced onion. The braised endive was delicious.

  8. There is always the Spring Tonic…

  9. Charlotte says:

    Finally made this tonight! And so easy! A truly lovely dish I will keep in my repertoire. I’ve always avoided tangines due to the “pot” problem, but this came out nicely in my husband’s grandmother’s cornflower blue Le Crueset. It reminded me of a dish from Penelope Casas’s cookbook “The Foods and Wines of Spain.” She has a lamb stew with lemon juice, garlic and sherry that must be a kissing cousin of this dish!

    Best,

    Charlotte

  10. Albert Premier says:

    Dear Charlotte,
    Ofcourse any Spanish stew is a cousin of any Moroccan tagine, kissing or not. As indeed a lot of other Spanish dishes are of their Moroccan counterparts, The best part of Spain was Arabic for centuries. For more fabulous tagines I recommend “Good food from Morocco” by Paula Wolfert. You will be astonished by the variety!
    Highest regards,
    Albert Premier.

  11. Charlotte says:

    Dear Albert,

    I apologize for the tardy reply, but thank you so much for the recommendation. I just ordered “Good Food from Morocco” from Alibris. Is it odd that most of the sellers were in the UK?! I had browsed the local bookstores for a good Moroccan cookbook and just couldn’t decide. Thank you for pointing me in the right direction. Best, Charlotte

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