Lamb with Dried Apricots & Chick Peas

This Moroccan-style casserole makes a delicious mid-week family dinner.

If you have more time to cook at the weekend, it will keep in the fridge for 3-4 days and the flavour actually improves with keeping. Or you can double the recipe and freeze half.

If you don’t have any ground cloves just leave them out. The preserved lemon gives a very distinct flavour and is worth getting. You can buy them in specialty shops or make your own from this recipe for preserved Kumquats – just use lemons instead. They keep for months, even years, without refrigeration.

Couscous is a quick and easy accompaniment to serve with this casserole. Place a cup of dry couscous in a bowl and add a cup of boiling water or stock. Stir then cover and leave for 2-3 minutes to swell up. Fluff up with a fork, season to taste and voila, it’s ready to serve.

Lamb with Dried Apricots & Chick Peas2 Tbs oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
500-600g lean lamb cut into 2-3cm cubes
½ tsp each ground cumin, coriander and mixed spice
¼ tsp each ground nutmeg, cloves and chilli or cayenne pepper
1 Tbs grated fresh ginger
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 can chick peas, drained
1 cup beef stock or water and 1 stock cube
½ cup dried apricots, cut in half if large
2 tsp sugar
1 Tbs preserved lemon rind, chopped (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
To serve:
Couscous, cooked
Fresh coriander, chopped
2 Tbs pine nuts, lightly toasted

Heat oil in a large non-stick frying pan or a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring for 2-3 mins until softening but not brown. Add the meat and continue to cook over moderately high heat until the meat has browned. Add all the spices and continue to cook, stirring, for 1-2 mins. Add remaining ingredients and season to taste. Simmer for 15-30 mins or until meat is tender, adding a little water if necessary. Serve with couscous and garnished with the coriander and pine nuts.

Serves 4

Variations: use raisins, dates, prunes or figs instead of apricots. Use parsley instead of coriander, toasted slivered almonds instead of pine nuts and serve with rice or mashed potatoes instead of couscous.

Lamb & Quince Tajine in a Slow Cooker

Moroccans make their casseroles in earthenware cooking dishes with domed lids called tajines. So the word “tajine” is used to refer to both the cooking pot and the casserole you make in it. Recipes often combine meat or poultry with dried or fresh fruit and sometimes include some honey and a few nuts.

We planted a quince tree about three years ago and recently picked our first quinces. Just two. So I decided to use them in a Moroccan lamb and quince casserole. Instead of using my traditional cooking pot, which I bought when we were holidaying in Marrakesh, I made it in my slow cooker.

Fresh or frozen pomegranate seeds add a nice splash of colour, but they’re not essential. They freeze well – so stash some away when they’re in season. A little goes a long way as a garnish.

I made a large stacking ring by removing the top and bottom from a 425g can of tuna and used it to arrange the couscous in the centre of the plate with the lamb on top.

Lamb & Quince Tajine in a Slow Cooker2 Tbs olive oil
1.2kg lean lamb, cut into 2cm dice (leg or shoulder)
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp chilli powder or flakes
1 tsp turmeric
1 cinnamon stick, broken in two
½ tsp saffron threads
2 quinces, peeled, cored and cut into eighths
2 Tbs honey
4 Kaffir lime leaves (optional)
2½ cups chicken stock (or water and a cube)
1 Tbs fish sauce
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 2cm cubes
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
To serve:
Chopped fresh coriander
1 cup lightly toasted pine nuts
Pomegranate seeds (optional)

Heat oil in a large frying pan and brown meat on both sides in two or three batches. Remove meat and place in slow cooker. Add garlic and onion to pan and cook gently, stirring, for 5-10 mins or until softened. Add the five dry spices and cook for one minute, stirring.

Add the spice and onion mixture to the slow cooker with the quinces, honey, stock, lime leaves and fish sauce. Cover and cook on High for 5-6 hours (or on Low for 8-10 hours), adding the sweet potato and chickpeas about halfway through the cooking time. Slow cookers vary, so you will have to adjust the cooking time as you go. If possible check and stir the tajine every hour or so.

Serve tajine on a bed of couscous, garnished with chopped coriander, pine nuts and pomegranate seeds.

Serves 8

Note: if preferred, cook the casserole in a heavy casserole dish with a lid in the oven at 170°C for about two hours, adding the sweet potato and chickpeas about halfway through.

Lamb and Date Tajine in a Slow Cooker

The two most popular posts on Café Cat are both made in a slow cooker, so I thought it was time to post another recipe.

While I probably only use it four or five times a year, a slow cooker is great for winter, when we eat more casseroles. It’s also perfect when you want something which looks after itself as it cooks.

This Lamb and Date Tajine came from my friend Kien who lives in Amsterdam. I’ve cut down a bit on the liquid which is all you need to do to adapt any recipe for a slow cooker. I couldn’t find any really small onions so I used nine larger ones and cut them in half. As with all casseroles, the leftovers were even better when reheated two days later.

Lamb and Date Tajine in a Slow Cooker1kg lean lamb cut into 2cm cubes (shoulder, leg)
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp fresh ginger, coarsely grated
Pinch of saffron
1 Tbs olive oil + extra
18 whole small onions, peeled
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 Tbs plain flour
1 Tbs tomato paste
1 cinnamon stick, broken in two
450ml lamb or beef stock
4 Tbs chopped fresh coriander
Rind of one preserved lemon, diced (see note below)
100g dates, sliced
1 Tbs honey
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Marinate meat with ground coriander, ginger, saffron and olive oil for 24 hours in the fridge. Brown lamb all over in 2-3 batches in a non-stick frying pan over moderately hot heat – there’s no need to add any oil as there’s oil in the marinade – then place in slow cooker.

Add a little oil to the pan with the whole baby onions and cook until lightly golden all over, then add to slow cooker. Add garlic to the pan and cook gently for a minute or so, adding a little more oil if necessary. When soft add flour and continue to cook for a minute or so, stirring. Add stock gradually, stirring until thickened, then add to slow cooker with the cinnamon stick and tomato paste. Cover and cook on High until it starts to bubble, then turn to Low and cook for 6-7 hours or leave it on high for 3-4 hours. It might suit you to cook it for longer if you have to go out. Cooking times vary from slow cooker to slow cooker.

When meat is tender add honey, dates and preserved lemon and season to taste with salt and pepper. Preserved lemons are salty so you probably won’t need any salt. Cook for another hour or so. Garnish with fresh coriander and serve with couscous.

Serves 4-6

Notes: While lamb is more authentic in a Moroccan tajine, cubed lean beef also works well in this recipe. Preserved lemons are sold in some gourmet shops. They give this recipe a distinctive flavour, so it’s worth keeping an eye out for them next time you’re in a gourmet shop. One jar is enough for several recipes. Or you can make your own as I do.

Moroccan Chicken

This is another great recipe from Delicious magazine, with a few slight changes and variations. A perfect mid-week dinner, with some leftovers for sandwiches.

The original recipe uses 2 Tbs of Ras el Hanout – a Moroccan spice blend available in some specialist shops. But it’s not difficult to make, so I have explained how to do this. Don’t worry if you’re missing one of the spices, just add something else.

In the salad the original recipe uses freekeh – an ancient, but now new and trendy grain. I used pearl barley instead. You could also substitute burghul (cracked wheat) or couscous. The second time I made this dish I served the chicken and onions on mashed sweet potato instead of the grain salad, which was also very tasty.

Costco sells two small punnets of fresh pomegranate seeds for about $10. Freeze them in ice cube trays, then you can whip a couple out to garnish dishes like this and add a splash of colour.

Moroccan Chicken

1.5kg whole chicken
2 Tbs Ras al Hanout (see below)
1 tsp salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbs olive oil
2-3 large onions, peeled and very thickly sliced
Grain salad:
1 cup barley
1 can lentils (or cook some dried lentils)
1/3 cup pine nuts
1/3 cup pumpkin or sunflower seeds, or a mix
2 Tbs capers, rinsed and drained
½ cup dried cranberries, raisins or sultanas
1 cup coriander leaves, finely chopped
1 cup flat parsley leaves, finely chopped
½ cup mint leaves, finely chopped
2-3 Tbs lemon juice
¼ cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
To serve:
2 Tbs pomegranate molasses (see below)
Thick Greek-style plain yoghurt
Seeds from 1 pomegranate (optional)
Rocket salad

Pre-heat oven to 180°C. Rinse and pat chicken dry with paper towels. Mix Ras el Hanout with the salt, pepper and the 2 Tbs oil and brush all over the chicken, both sides and inside. Place onion slices in a roasting pan and sit chicken on top. Roast for between an hour and a quarter and an hour and a half, or until juices run clear when thickest part of chicken thigh is pierced with a skewer. After about 40 mins of cooking, turn chicken over and about 20 mins before it’s ready, turn it back over again. When you turn the chicken, move the onions around a bit so they don’t burn. Add about ¼ cup of water if they’re starting to burn and stick.

Meanwhile cook barley in boiling salted water for about 30 mins or until al dente. When almost cooked add the drained lentils. When barley is cooked drain both and place in a bowl. Add remaining ingredients. Mix dressing ingredients and mix with grains.

When chicken is cooked brush all over with Pomegranate Molasses then cover loosely with foil, turn off the oven and leave it in there for 10-20 mins or until you are ready to serve. The chicken will continue to cook, resulting in meat that is almost falling off the bone, but we liked it that way.

Carve chicken into portions and serve with some of the onions on a bed of grain salad. Top with a dollop of yoghurt and some pomegranate seeds and serve a rocket salad, dressed simply with a little olive oil and lemon juice, on the side.

Serves 4-6


Ras al Hanout: An Australian tablespoon = 20 mls and a teaspoon = 5 mls. So to make 2 Tbs of spice mix you need 8 tsp of ground spices. Mix together 1 tsp of each of the following: cumin, coriander, paprika, ginger, cardamom or fenugreek and turmeric. Then add ½ tsp each of cloves and nutmeg. And ½ to 1 tsp chilli powder, to taste. For kids you may prefer to leave the chilli out altogether.

Pomegranate Molasses: a sweet and sour sauce from Morocco available in some specialist shops. If you don’t have any either leave it out, or substitute 1 Tbs Thai Sweet Chilli sauce or honey mixed with 1 Tbs balsamic vinegar.

Variations: instead of serving chicken on grain salad, serve it on mashed sweet potato or pumpkin (add butter, S and P).

Moroccan Cauliflower Salad with Yoghurt Dressing

We’re very fond of Moroccan flavours so this recipe caught my eye when it appeared in the latest Delicious magazine. It comes from Mojo, Luke Mangan’s new wine bar in Danks Street in Sydney, which serves “sharing plates” to go with the wine.

Serve it on its own or with grilled lamb cutlets or my Moroccan lamb. As we’re in the middle of winter I served it slightly warm and it was fantastic – definitely a keeper.

Moroccan Cauliflower Salad with Yoghurt Dressing1 whole cauliflower
400g can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/3 cup olive oil plus extra to serve
2 Tbs Ras el Hanout Spice Mix (bought or make your own, see below)
½ bunch coriander, leaves picked off
½ bunch Continental parsley, leaves picked off
1/3 cup port
1/3 cup currants
2 Tbs white wine
2 pinches saffron strands
2/3 cup thick Greek-style yoghurt
Juice ½ lemon, or to taste
½ tsp Dijon mustard
1/3 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted

Preheat oven to 200ºC. Trim cauliflower removing green leaves and stem. Slice cauliflower into 1cm slices from top to bottom – some will fall off as florets. Place in a roasting pan with chickpeas, oil and spices. Toss with your fingers to coat everything thoroughly. Bake 20-25 mins or until tender and golden. Cool a bit then mix with the herbs.

Meanwhile heat port in a pan or microwave. Add currants and leave to soak for 10 mins or until plump, then drain. The recipe says to discard the port, but why not drink it? Heat wine in a pan or microwave, add saffron and stand 15 mins, then strain into a bowl, discarding saffron. Add yogurt, mustard and lemon juice to taste and mix well.

Divide yoghurt dressing between 4-6 serving plates in a puddle in the middle. Top with cauliflower mixture, garnish with currants and pine nuts and drizzle with extra oil. Alternatively serve in one large serving bowl, drizzled with the dressing.

Serves 4-6

Ras el Hanout Spice Mix
3 Tbs black peppercorns
2 tsp powdered ginger
2 tsp cumin seeds or powder
2 tsp coriander seeds or powder
2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp cardamom
2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp chilli flakes or powder
¼ tsp cloves
2 tsp coarse salt

Grind the whole spices and salt to a powder in a spice mill or mortar and pestle. Add the powdered spices and mix well. Keep in a jar with a lid. Best used within a couple of months.

Moroccan Lamb

I started making this Moroccan lamb when we were living in Paris. I served it when my Dad came over from the UK with the rest of my family to celebrate his 80th birthday in 2000. The recipe has evolved over the years and become a family favourite. Our eldest son James makes it so regularly it has become his signature dish.

Moroccan Lamb1 leg or shoulder of lamb, trimmed of excess fat
1/3 cup lemon or lime juice
1 Tbs tomato paste
1 tsp ground cumin
1-2 tsp sambal ulek (harissa or chilli paste)
1-2 large cloves garlic crushed 
1 Tbs fish sauce
Moroccan vegetables:
Oven roasted vegetables
1 can chick peas, drained
1-2 tsp cumin, to taste
Mint Yoghurt:
1 cup thick Greek yoghurt
½ cup chopped fresh mint
1 clove garlic, crushed
pinch salt
1/2 tsp honey

Place lamb in a roasting pan. Combine remaining ingredients and spread over both sides of lamb. Cover and leave to marinate for several hours or overnight in the fridge.

Preheat oven to 160°C. Remove lamb from fridge and allow to come to room temperature, then add 2 cups water. Bake lamb, covered tightly with aluminium foil, for 3 hours, turning and basting every hour or so. Increase temperature to 180°C, remove foil and cook for another 30-40 mins. If all the liquid has evaporated, add it bit more water. Meat should be very tender and almost falling off the bone. Slice and serve on a bed of Moroccan vegetables, garnished with a dollop of Mint Yoghurt.

Moroccan vegetables: Click on the link to find the recipe for oven roasted vegetables. Mix in the chick peas and cumin about 10-15 minutes before the vegetables are ready.  As the lamb and veggies need different oven temperatures you may prefer to make the roast vegetables earlier in the day, mix in the chick peas and cumin and leave the baking tray aside. Then to serve, if they have got cold, put the tray into the oven for the last 20-30 minutes of cooking time of the lamb, then they will both be ready at the same time.

Mint Yoghurt: mix yoghurt with remaining ingredients and refrigerate until serving time.

Serves 6-8