In the souks of Morocco, the tradition of centuries of artisans and tradespeople lives on in a dizzying atmosphere of color and sound. These marketplaces are flooded with goods and crafts from hand-woven tapestries and clothing to intricate ceramic cookware and leather pieces. Among the most enticing areas of any Moroccan souk are those occupied by the spice traders, peddling saffron, paprika, cayenne, harissa cinnamon and others commonly found in the local cuisines. The aromas wafting through the air in these tantalizing corridors will soon be wafting through your own home kitchen, down the hallways and under the noses of your favorite dinner companions, as we prepare for a traditional lamb tagine with Chef Jon Ashton.

The tagine itself – a ceramic pot with a funnel-topped lid that allows the steam to rise and results in unbelievably tender meat – is said to date back to ancient Roman times, although over the years, its design and use have become synonymous with Moroccan cuisine. Many are colorfully adorned with painted designs, making them a lovely addition to a kitchen’s aesthetic. And while this ancient tool is still the go-to piece and method for preparing Moroccan stews, modern inventions offer convenient options and equally mouthwatering dishes. Dutch ovens, slow cookers and heavy-bottomed pots are all acceptable tools of the trade for this recipe.

Get the Recipe: Moroccan Lamb Stew with Couscous

A Moroccan lamb tagine is a glorified stew worthy of poetry. Aromatic and syrupy, zesty and spicy or sweet and fragrant are just a few words that spring to mind succulent meats, vegetables simmered to perfection.


  • 3 pounds Lamb stew meat, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 10 dried apricots
  • 10 dried prunes, optional
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins (optional)
  • generous pinch saffron
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, more as needed
  • 2 large yellow onions, thinly sliced
  • 4 2-inch-long strips zest from 1 lemon, trimmed of white pith
  • 1 cup pitted green Greek olives, halved
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 small cinnamon stick
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 cup marinara sauce, homemade or Rao’s
  • 6 carrots, peeled, sliced 1 1/2 inch thick
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
  • 1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • fresh lemon juice, to taste


  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 2 cups couscous
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
  • 1 cup dried Craisins
  • 2 tablespoons Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice


  • In a large bowl, combine lamb and kosher salt. Let sit at room temperature for at least 1 hour.
  • In a small pot, bring chicken stock to a boil. Remove from heat. Add apricots, prunes and golden raisins, and let them rehydrate for at least 15 minutes. Reserve.
  • Heat oven to 325 degrees F.
  • Place saffron in a small bowl and add 2 Tablespoons warm water and let bloom.
  • In a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid, warm 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat until hot. Working in a few batches, dry the lamb with paper towel and add lamb to pot. Don’t over crowd as it will cool the pan and it won’t brown properly. Cook until nicely browned on all sides. Transfer pieces to a tray as they brown.
  • Add onions to the pot and a pinch salt. Cook until soft, about 8 minutes. Add lemon zest, olives, garlic, cinnamon stick and the spices, and cook until fragrant, about 1 – 2 minutes.
  • Add the tomato sauce, carrots, reserved dried fruits and stock, half the cilantro, and browned lamb with any juices on the plate, back to the pot. Cover the pot with foil and then top foil with the lid. Cook in the oven for 1 ½ to 2 hours, or until the lamb is tender, stirring it occasionally.
  • Meanwhile, in a small skillet, heat the butter over medium heat. Add the almonds and a pinch of salt, and cook until golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes.
  • To serve, transfer the lamb and juices to a serving platter. Top with toasted almonds and any butter left in the small skillet and remaining cilantro. Sprinkle with fresh lemon juice to taste. Serve with flatbread or couscous (optional).


  • Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant. Add couscous and cook, stirring frequently, until grains begin brown and smell nutty, about 5 minutes. Add broth, and small pinch salt; stir briefly to combine, cover pan with lid, and remove pan from heat. Let stand until liquid is absorbed and couscous is tender, about 7-10 minutes. Uncover and fluff couscous with fork
  • Combine almonds, crasins, oil and lemon juice in large bowl. Stir in couscous until well combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste.