Serves 4 to 6
2 to 2 1/2 lbs lamb, shoulder or boneless leg of lamb
1 large onion, sliced
fresh ginger, 1” long, trimmed and julienned
1 fennel bulb, cleaned, core removed and sliced
5 cloves of garlic, sliced
2 stalks of celery, sliced
1 bunch each of flat leaf Italian parsley and cilantro (clean and cut the stems into a small dice, approximately 1/2 cup)
1 tablespoon Ras-El-Hanout, or to taste *
2 cinnamon sticks
pinch of saffron
1 quart chicken stock (will probably use less)
1/2 of a preserved lemon (substitute juice and zest of 1 lemon)
1/2 lb of large green olives, such as picholine, with pits
juice from 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup each of chopped cilantro and flat leaf parsley leaves
extra-virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Bring the lamb to room temperature, remove any excess fat, and cut into 1”-1 1/2” cubes. Toss the lamb with the Ras-El-Hanout, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to one hour. Heat several teaspoons of extra-virgin olive slowly in the bottom of the tagine, or other heavy bottom pan such as an enameled Dutch oven. Saute the meat over medium heat until it starts to develop a light brown color and is glistening, approximately 5 to 10 minutes. Remove the lamb from the tagine and place in a bowl. Add some additional extra-virgin olive oil, 1 or 2 tablespoons, to the tagine and again heat slowly. Add the sliced onions, fennel, diced parsley and cilantro stems to the tagine with a pinch of salt (watch the amount of salt, since the preserved lemons will be salty) and saute over medium heat until they start to soften and develop some light color, approximately 5 to 10 minutes. Add the saffron to 1/2 cup of warm water and stir. Let the saffron sit in the water for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger to the tagine, mix, and continue to saute for 1 minute. Return the lamb to the tagine, add the cinnamon sticks, mix, and saute for an another 5 minutes. Add the saffron with the water and enough chicken stock to almost cover the meat. Bring to a boil, skim the top of the stock and reduce to a slow simmer. Cover and cook for approximately 1 1/2 hours until the meat starts to become tender. Check the level of stock while the tagine is cooking and add additional stock, if necessary.
If you are using a preserved lemon, while the tagine is cooking, remove the pulp and julienne the remaining skin of the lemon. If you are using a fresh lemon, clean the lemon to remove any coating, remove the zest in large strips with a vegetable peeler and blanch in boiling water for 5 to 10 minutes until soft. Remove the lemon zest, rinse under cold water and then julienne the zest. During this time you should also blanch the olives in boiling water for a minute. Remove the olives and rinse under cold water.
Add the lemon zest, olives and lemon juice to the tagine and then continue to cook for about another 1/2 hour or until the meat is completely tender.
At this point you have a choice of refrigerating the tagine over night or finishing it. In either case you should remove as much fat from the stock as possible.
If you are going to refrigerate the tagine, you should make sure that it is cool, before putting it in the refrigerator. Refrigerating the tagine over night will not only enhance the flavor but also make it easier to remove the fat from the top of the dish. The next day, remove the fat from the top and return the tagine to the stove and gently reheat for about 10 minutes.
If you are either serving the tagine the day it was cooked, or reheating it the next day, you should separate the meat and vegetables from the warm stock. Remove any remaining fat on the top of the stock and slowly reduce the stock in the tagine over medium heat, to slightly thicken it, if necessary. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Return the meat and vegetables to the tagine, mix, and heat until warm, approximately 5 to 10 minutes. Sprinkle the chopped cilantro and flat leaf parsley on top, and serve with couscous, harissa yogurt sauce, tzatziki and a ginger, carrot puree.