A tangine is both a rich and aromatic casserole as well as a cooking vessel used to cook Moroccan and Middle Eastern foods. The cooking vessel is a clay pot with a lid that funnels at the top and has a hole at the top that allows steam to escape. These were traditionally used by the nomadic Berbers of North Africa. The casserole version of a tangine is a dish flavored with a lot of spices and can be made from any combination of vegetables, meats, chicken or seafood, and is often referred to as ” A glorified stew worthy of poetry” and as ” a dish of tender meat, fish or succulent vegetables, simmered to perfection in buttery sauces with fruit, herbs, honey and chiles” (p. 7 Tangines & Couscous – Delicious Recipes for Moroccan One-pot Cooking, by Ghillie Basan). Traditionally, tangines are served as a meal of their own served over couscous with flat breads, such as pita bread or a crusty bread, to help soak up and mop up the juices of the stew. When cooking tangines, you want to slow cook them over a low simmering heat to preserve the juices and the moistness of the foods and the meats. They can be cooked over hot coals or a wood burning stove, or on top of the stove, as is most commonly done today. I do not have a tangine clay pot, nor have I ever used one, so as authentic as my flavors may be, my tangines are not totally authentic because I cook them in a skillet with a lid, which is similar, but definitely not the same.
We love lamb, but it doesn’t make our usual rotation of meats as often as we would like. As with most things, when I do cook lamb, I make it a variety of different ways. This time I made as a summer tangine that was loaded with vegetables. I love all kinds of tomatoes, and in the summer, there is such a large variety of tomatoes available. I love to mix and match my tomatoes, and I use all kinds. They all have their own unique flavors and personalities.
Summer Lamb and Vegetable Tangine
1 1/2 lb lamb, cut into large chunks
4 TBSP olive oil
1 onion, sliced thin
1 TBSP garlic
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp dried mint
1 zucchini, sliced
1 red bell pepper, large dice
1 yellow or crookneck squash, sliced
4 tomatoes, medium dice – I used a variety of fun summer tomatoes – some heirloom tomatoes as well as some grape, yellow tomatoes and sun tomatoes
2 TBSP fresh parsley, chopped fine
1 TBSP fresh mint, chopped fine
salt & pepper tot taste
1 TBSP lemon juice
Cook the lamb in olive oil, with salt, pepper and dried mint until it is browned on all sides and set aside. In a separate pan, saute all the hearty vegetables in olive oil until the they are soft and tender, or for about 7-10 minutes. To cook the couscous, it is almost a 1:1 ration of water to couscous. Bring the water with a little salt and olive oil to a full and rapid boil, then turn the heat off and add the couscous. Mix it in thoroughly, and let it set. The couscous will absorb the liquid and will fluff out. Couscous has a slightly nutty taste.
When the vegetables are done, add the tomatoes and the cooked lamb, along with a little water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and continue to cook for about 30 minutes, stirring frequently.
When the stew is finished, add the fresh mint and parsley on top and serve on top of the couscous. I served mine with warmed pita bread and hummus on the side, and my accompanying wine choice was a smooth, velvety red blend. Delicious!