Recipes Main Courses Lamb Lamb Tagine with Olives, Preserved Lemon and Couscous

Lamb Tagine with Olives, Preserved Lemon and Couscous

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 2 minutes
Servings: 4 to 5

The term tagine refers both to the dish and to the vessel in which it is traditionally cooked in North Africa. The conical top of a tagine helps redirect the condensation into the food, thus keeping the meat moist. Since most home cooks don’t own a tagine, we’ve used a Dutch oven for this recipe, but if you happen to own one, you can transfer the braised meat to the tagine for serving.


  • 1 1/2 cups (12 fl. oz./375 ml) reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 tsp. saffron threads
  • 2 lb. (1 kg) boneless lamb shoulder, trimmed and cut into 1-inch (2.5-cm) chunks
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 white or yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. sweet paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 12 mild green olives, such as Lucques or Picholine
  • 1 preserved lemon, diced
  • 2 Tbs. coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (optional)

For the couscous:

  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 white or yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cups (18 oz./560 g) Israeli couscous
  • 4 cups (32 fl. oz./1 l) reduced-sodium beef or chicken broth
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper


In a small saucepan, warm the broth over medium-low heat. Crumble in the saffron. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Season the lamb chunks generously with salt and pepper. In a Dutch oven or other heavy pot, warm the oil over medium-high heat. When the oil is shimmering, add the lamb and brown on all sides, about 5 minutes total. With a slotted spoon, transfer to a platter.

Add the onion to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the ginger, paprika, cumin and garlic and stir for 1 minute. Return the lamb to the pot and add the saffron broth, the bay leaf and 1/2 tsp. salt. Season with pepper. Cover and cook over the lowest possible heat—just so the liquid shimmers—until the lamb is tender, at least 1 1/2 hours. Check occasionally; if the liquid level falls too low, add 1 or 2 Tbs. water.

About 10 minutes before the lamb is done, prepare the couscous: In a saucepan over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the couscous and cook, stirring, until just beginning to brown, about 6 minutes. Add the broth and 1/2 tsp. salt and season with pepper. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the couscous is tender and all the liquid is absorbed, about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and fluff with a fork.

While the couscous is simmering, transfer the lamb to a platter and tent loosely with aluminum foil. Discard the bay leaf from the braising juices and, if desired, tip the pot and spoon off some of the fat. Add the olives and preserved lemon and simmer briskly over medium-high heat until the juices are reduced and concentrated, about 5 minutes. Return the lamb to the pot and taste and adjust the seasoning.

Spoon the couscous into bowls and top with the lamb. Garnish with parsley and serve immediately. Serves 4 to 5.

Adapted from Williams Sonoma The Cook & the Butcher, by Brigit Binns (Weldon Owen, 2011)