Tagine-Style Moroccan Lamb with Grilled Apricots & Olives

deconstructed lamb tagine with grilled apricots and olives

Although we were the lucky recipients of a gorgeous red tagine as an engagement pressie from my parents friends a few years ago, we decided to forgo using it in the 95 degree heat New Yorkers were forced to endure last week. For those who may not know, a tagine (or tajine) is a clay vessel used for the North African dishes of Moroccan cuisine. It’s a two-parter type of deal – the bottom is like a heavy clay pot about five inches in depth and the top is a cone-like lid. There are no air holes in a tagine and this is specifically for keeping the steam inside. It almost creates a small clay oven on your stovetop or in the oven. What’s absolutely brilliant about this cooking vessel is that, due to its conical shape, it retains the moisture which is emanated from the ingredients inside and as it rises, it gathers on the conical top and falls right back into the food braising perfectly. This creates real depth of flavor as well as moist and delicious meats, especially those cuts that are tougher or cheaper. Tagines are really made for slow and low type of cooking and are used for a variety of different types of meals including meat or fish tagines and even soups. I highly recommend getting one of these babies for your kitchen and trying it out – but wait until it’s not 90 degrees outside.Which brings me to the actual recipe portion of this post – it’s friggin/freaking/fricking/fuggin/fucking (however the heck you express it) hot here in my neck of the woods. H-O-T. The last thing I felt like doing was turn on my oven. Luckily, on a shop-a-holic spring weekend in April we got summer-fever and spent about $300 we don’t really have at Lowes. At that time (and in my “holy s&it it’s the first 60 degree day” happiness fog), I thought it would be a great idea to purchase a $99 gas grill for our “backyard”. Somehow, miraculously, we shoved this very large gas grill in our small ‘backyard’ in Brooklyn (I use the word backyard lightly considering our plot of bricked-over land is about 7 feet by 3 feet – but I AM NOT COMPLAINING… honestly!). It’s the best financial investment I’ve made since buying my husbands greencard 5 years ago!

deconstructed lamb tagine with grilled apricots and olives

I’m rambling. Apologies. I’m writing this as I’m at the beach, pink with a light sunburn, and I’m 3/4 of the way down a very strong vodka tonic (twist of lime, thank you very much!). Anyways, it was freaking hot in New York, I was craving a tagine and I did not want to turn on my oven or stovetop. What’s a girl to do? Buy all the ingredients for a tagine and cook them on the grill separately. So, that’s what I did and let me tell you kind readers, it was freaking fabulous. We grilled every bit of what I would’ve put in a tagine and we served it with a nutty and fruity couscous. It’s been done time and time again, but, like I’ve mentioned before in another “deconstructed meal”, sometimes you just want to cut into things with a knife and fork. This meal was super easy and obviously much quicker to cook than a tagine. It’s perfect for the hot summer. Just rub your favorite Moroccan spice blend over your lamb (or use chicken if you’d prefer!) like a Ras el hanout, and grill along side fresh apricot and olives. Yes, we grilled olives. Although I don’t think it’s necessary to grill, the olives did take on a nice flavor by grilling them. Throw it all together with some cous cous and (as my British husband would say) you’re laughing.

I have submitted this dish to Grill It! this months “Monthly Mingle”.ร‚ย 



  • 2 lamb shoulder chops
  • 1 large onion, cut into thick slices (about 1 1/2 to 2 inches)
  • 10 large whole green olives
  • 2 apricots (you can use dried apricots or other stone fruit like plums if it’s not the season)
  • For Moroccan Spice Mix:
    • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
    • 2 teaspoons coriander
    • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
    • 2 teaspoon cumin
    • 1/2 teaspoon ginger powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon chile powder or cayenne
    • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
    • 1/2 teaspoon tumeric (optional)
    • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • For Cous Cous
    • 1 cup of couscous (your favorite brand – if it’s packaged, no problem
    • chicken stock to cook it in
    • 1/2 onion, minced
    • handful of fresh coriander, minced
    • 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
    • 1/2 lemon
    • 1/2 cup raisins
    • 1 teaspoon of the moroccan spice
    • 1 can chickpeas
    • 1 teaspoon lemon zest

What do to:

  1. Add all the spices together and mix with a fork or spoon to create your Moroccan Spice Mix.
  2. Rub spice mix generously on lamb and allow to sit for at least 30 minutes using a little olive oil to help it adhere.
  3. Make sure to reserve at least one teaspoon of the mix to flavor your couscous.
  4. Heat grill to medium-high and grill your chops for at least 4 minutes (perhaps as many as 6 minutes – use “poke” test to check) per side for a nice medium-rare pink.
  5. After a couple of minutes, oil the onions and begin grilling. These need around five minutes per side and be careful turning them as they tend to separate.
  6. After turning your chops over, add the olives, neatly threaded on some skewers. These don’t need that long, they just need to blister a little on all sides.
  7. Remove chops to a plate, cover with foil and allow to rest.
  8. Oil, salt and pepper the asparagus and begin grilling them.
  9. Add chicken stock to couscous, cover and let absorb.
  10. When stock is absorbed, add pistachios, spice mix,herbs and lemon zest and fluff together. Aromas will be wonderful!
  11. Remove onions, asparagus and olives from grill. Add all to plate and sprinkle generously with some more pistachios. Enjoy!

Check Out Some Other Posts You Might Enjoy:

Knowing Your Tagliatelle from Your Tagliolini
At the Desk Gourmet: It’s the Future
Free Lunch for Inner-City Kids: Does Free Mean It Needs to be Crap?
I’m Dreaming for Some Cured Pigs Cheeks

35 thoughts on “Tagine-Style Moroccan Lamb with Grilled Apricots & Olives

  1. Those Le Creusets aren’t cheap but they are sleak cooking utensils. The lamb tajine is beautifully plated, wonderful spice blend…I’m putting my fez on heading over!

  2. You bought your ‘husband’ a green card? And you are an American? I fail to see how that is a good investment ๐Ÿ˜‰

    In any case, looks very tasty. I particularly like tajines because I love the taste of fall-off-the-bone lamb mixed with Moroccan flavored juices, I applaud the innovation! I’d like to try out your rub on some lamb one day!

  3. When I saw the photo appear on google reader, I just thought wow! It looks amazing and I bet it tasted great. Its starred and will be cooked soon!

  4. Haha thanks for the clarification. I first read it and thought “wait Tangerine Lamb? Like the fruit? I was waaaay off. The tagine thing looks like a cool invention, and with cooking abilities like that I’d say its a keeper. The dish looks great, and I like morroccan spices.

    I didn’t know you were in Brooklyn. Congrats on your yard size. I’m in Long Island at the moment, and ours is about the same ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. That food looks delicious… regardless of whether or not you used the tagine. Also, however small your yard is, I’m jealous! It’s nice to have any space at all outside.

  6. You sold me on the tagine. I have seen them here in Valencia, mostly in the halal butcher shops, and there are loads of halal butcher shops in my immigrant-heavy barrio of Ruzafa (el centro del universo). I love all my clay baking dishes and I can’t figure out why they aren’t more popular in the Estados Unidos.

    I am going through a rabbit phase at the moment so excuse me if I substitute a bunny for the lamb. When I lived in Greece I had lamb about four meals a dayรขโ‚ฌโ€not that I’m complaining. I think they have lamb-flavored breakfast cereal in Greece, but don’t quote me on that.

  7. I have the same Emile Henry (?) tagine, along with several others, including some clay ones I helped a local potter design. I don’t use any of them in the summer (too hot!!), but there is nothing better for low and slow cooking in the cooler weather. Your adaptation of the flavors of Morocco to a grilled dish is fabulous.

  8. Btw: I found the Guanciale at Grace’s Market in Manhattan 71st & 3rd. Call them up first to make sure they still have it. I’ll let you know if i can find another source too. Good luck! ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Hi Amy – Thanks for stopping by. We can disagree on the stone vs. grill although I think you are onto something by combining the two (sort of like the post!). My issue with the stone is that I cannot get it hot enough in 500degree oven but on BBQ you could get it hotter. I’ll have to try that, thanks for the tip.

    Much more importantly, I love your blog. We appear to have lot’s in common foodwise as I absolutely love Spanish and Moroccan food. I have the same tagine as you (yellow) and just did a halibut tagine. Your post looks scrumptious. You’re bookmarked, I’ll be back.


  10. Thanks for coming by – I love your blog, everything looks so delish!! I definitely want try your stuffed squid recipe one day too! I was so embarrassed for the longest time for using that faux cheese but never could justify the cost of real cheese, especially since things like cheese like to die on me so quickly. Anyway I won’t be going back to Kraft I tell you!

  11. Hello, everyone! To all: if you don’t have a tagine, seriously, before winter comes, buy one. Peter, you’re right – they are expensive as are the crusets, but are so worth it. you spend the $$ you see why it’s worth it – kind of like real parmigiano reggiano, Lizz!

    Thanks for the plating/photography compliments – sometimes I wonder about it since I’m not finding I’m having worse issue re: photos being taken w/ foodgawker.com than i had w/ the original tastespotting. it’s getting so frustrating i’m starting to give up on it.

    zenchef – thanks for the tip! i’m totally following up on it.

    mark (chefectomy): thank you so much for bookmarking us!! please stop back and i’ll be doing the same with your blog.

  12. The red tagine must be one of the most elegant cookware out there! Must admit I’ve always loved to eat couscous with something sweet on the side and your apricots fit the bill perfectly. Gorgeous dish!

  13. Hey, Christie! I love that you noticed that – b/c I didn’t! I mean, I know I did it that way, but maybe I didn’t notice that it’s a bit different than the normal way of skewering. So, thanks for pointing that out!

  14. I have been contemplating investing in a tagine for a while.. thanks for all the info on it. This meal is to die for, your plating is so beautiful! Thanks for sending this over to MM!

  15. Wow, I’m so glad to have stumbled across your blog! The photography is beautiful, and the food – oh, the food. Despite eating a grotesquely oversized lunch, your lamb still made me drool, ever so slightly, on my keyboard.

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