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Lamb Tagine with Cinnamon-Scented Onions and Tomatoes

Scott Phillips

Servings: 4

This tagine comes from the western foothills of the High Atlas mountains. There, a young Berber chef, Habiba Irich, made me a tagine similar to this one, and its haunting sweet and savory flavor has stayed with me since. You can make this dish at any time of year, but if tomatoes are in season, replace the canned tomatoes in the recipe with thick slices of large, ripe ones; lay them between the lamb and the onions. For more information on lamb steaks, see Give Lamb Steaks a Try.


  • 2 Tbs. finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 Tbs. finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2-1/2 to 2-3/4 lb. bone-in leg of lamb steaks (1-1/4 inch thick; 3 to 5)
  • 1 28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
  • 2 large red onions, 1 finely chopped
  • 2 tsp. granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbs. toasted sesame seeds

Nutritional Information

  • Calories (kcal) : 460
  • Fat Calories (kcal): 190
  • Fat (g): 21
  • Saturated Fat (g): 5
  • Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 2
  • Monounsaturated Fat (g): 12
  • Cholesterol (mg): 130
  • Sodium (mg): 350
  • Carbohydrates (g): 21
  • Fiber (g): 5
  • Protein (g): 45


  • In a large bowl, combine the parsley, cilantro, garlic, turmeric, ginger, 1/4 tsp. of the cinnamon, 3/4 tsp. salt, and several grinds of pepper. Add 2 Tbs. water and the olive oil, and mix. One by one, add the lamb steaks to the marinade and turn to coat each one before adding the next. Cover and refrigerate, turning the steaks occasionally, for 1 hour.
  • Meanwhile, drain the tomatoes in a sieve. Using a paring knife, make a small incision in each one and gently press out and discard any excess juice and seeds; set the tomatoes aside.
  • Scatter the chopped onions over the bottom of an 11- to 12-inch tagine. Arrange the lamb in a snug, single layer on top and drizzle over any remaining marinade. Arrange the drained tomatoes around the lamb, and then sprinkle 1 tsp. of the sugar and 1/4 tsp. of the cinnamon over the tomatoes.
  • Peel and cut the remaining onion crosswise into 1/8-inchthick rounds; do not separate the rings. Carefully lay the onion rounds on top of the lamb, and then sprinkle the remaining 1 tsp. sugar, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, and a pinch of salt over the onions.
  • Put the tagine over medium heat and cook uncovered, nudging the lamb occasionally to keep it from sticking, until the chopped onion is translucent, about 15 minutes.
  • Add 1/4 cup water around the edges (so that you don’t disturb the sugar and cinnamon). Cover with the lid, propping a wooden spoon between the base and the lid to keep it from sealing. Turn the heat down to low and gently simmer, nudging the lamb from time to time to prevent sticking and swapping the spoon position halfway through, until the lamb is very tender and the sliced onions are soft, 2 to 2-1/2 hours. Drizzle in a few spoonfuls of water as necessary during cooking to keep the sauce loose, or remove the lid at the end of cooking to evaporate and thicken the sauce if it’s watery.
  • Garnish with the sesame seeds and serve.


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Reviews (1 review)

  • Cuoca | 05/25/2014

    I wasn't sure of the cinnamon with the lamb, but, after cooking, the taste of cinnamon was there; however, it wasn't over-powering and the recipe worked. The flavor was delicious and the lamb was meltingly tender. The onions on the top didn't remain in whole slices and I think that was due to the "nudging" of the chicken. This ones a keeper!

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