When my partner and I were exploring Portugal many moons ago, we had our first and only argument. Quite embarrassingly it was about where to go on holiday next. He wanted to go to Vegas and I wanted to go to Marrakech (I’ve always wanted to go!).
In the end, we met in the middle and went to Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt. Having now visited both Las Vegas and Marrakech, it does seem like the perfect combination of the two. But perhaps that’s just because we stayed in the Luxor hotel in Sin City.
But enough about that. I want to talk to you about our trip to Marrakech and the cookery class we experienced at Maison MK. At the time, it was the top place to eat in the city on TripAdvisor and had been for seven years, so we knew it would be good.
Cooking a traditional lamb tagine in Marrakech
Some people might find it strange to work up a sweat in the kitchen while on holiday, but I love it. Cookery classes are one of the best ways to experience a foreign culture. Plus, you get something delicious to eat at the end of it, which is never a bad thing.
After navigating the mindboggling maze that is the Medina of Marrakech, we were greeted at the door by Chef Omar. After a refreshing glass of water, we were ready to take on making a traditional Moroccan lamb tagine. We had one option: lamb or chicken. After finding out that the chicken tagine involved buying a live chicken, we quite literally chickened out and opted for the lamb.
Omar guided us through the winding streets on a tour of the food and spice markets of Marrakech. Although we were distracted by some of the cute fluffy kittens crawling about, we managed to pick up everything we needed to make a simple lamb tagine.
Easy recipe for a traditional Moroccan lamb tagine
Back in the riad kitchen, Omar showed us how to prepare the ingredients (there are quite a lot of them, but don’t let that put you off!). We cooked in the traditional style with individual clay tagines, but a large, thick-bottomed pot works just as well at home.
After about an hour of cooking in the kitchen, we were invited to take a seat in the private courtyard in the centre of the riad. As the sun started to set, we were served the fruits of our labour. Along with some delicious mint tea and Moroccan appetisers.
Although the traditional Moroccan lamb tagine only takes about 40 minutes to cook, the meat tasted like it had been slow-cooked for hours and just fell apart on the plate. With more spices than a 90s girl group, the thick sauce was intensely fragrant and we ate every last bit. In my easy to make version, I’ve simplified parts of the recipe. I like it with couscous, but you could try saffron rice or pita bread.
A simple recipe for a traditional Moroccan lamb tagine, inspired by Maison MK in Marrakech, Morocco.
- 25 g almonds
- 25 g dried prunes
- 2 tsp runny honey
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp five spice mix
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium onion diced
- 2 cloves garlic sliced
- 450 g lamb shoulder diced
- 1 tsp dried parsley
- 1 tsp dried coriander
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- 1/2 tsp salt
In two small pans, boil the prunes and almonds separately. After about three minutes, take the almonds out of the water and set to one side.
After about 20 minutes, remove the prunes from the water. Add the honey and half a teaspoon of both the cinnamon and the five spice mix. Let the pan simmer for about 10 minutes, then take off the heat once the liquid has concentrated. Put this to one side, as you will need it later.
At the same time, add the diced onion and some of the olive oil to a large thick-bottomed pan and gently sauté over a medium heat.
Once the onion has softened, add the diced lamb and sliced cloves of garlic. Next, add the parsley, coriander and black pepper, along with the rest of the spices and a glass of water.
After around 10 minutes, add the rest of the olive oil and stir the pot gently. Gradually add two glasses of water and the liquid set aside earlier, and simmer.
Once you have been cooking the lamb for about 40 minutes, add the prunes and a sprinkling of salt to taste.
Now that the almonds are cold enough to touch, peel away the skins. Place in a hot pan for a few seconds, until lightly brown on both sides and set aside.
Serve the lamb tagine with the almonds sprinkled over the top and a side dish of your choice. I like couscous with saffron, but boiled rice or pita bread is nice too.