Moroccan lamb and date tagine

Moroccan lamb and date tagine with preserved lemon and pomegranate (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

My friend Francille recently allowed me to take her Le Creuset tagine for a spin. In my oven, of course. She recommended a recipe from one of her Moroccan cookbooks for a sweet and fragrant lamb and date tagine, which is served with preserved lemon.

I have seen people cook with preserved lemon so many times on tv, but have never seen it in SA shops. So upon looking up a recipe for preserved lemon, I found that it needs to mature for at least a month before it can be used. That ruled out my quest to make it for our shoot! Francille came to the rescue with a jar of homemade preserved lemons that a friend had given her a while back, and my shopping list was complete. I also found out via Twitter that you can buy preserved lemons at Melissa’s and Joostenberg Deli (that is if you don’t have talented friends with amazing stuff in their pantries!).

If you don’t have a proper tagine pot, don’t stress – you can also cook it in a dutch oven (cast iron pot with lid). Your result might be slightly less moist, because the tagine’s design ensures that the vapour gets redirected into the meat. And I also think a proper tagine just looks great, when presented to your guests at a dinner table. Total wow factor!

This exotic lamb dish is delicately fragrant and sweet – not spicy or hot at all. The preserved lemon provides the perfect zingy salty finish, so don’t make it without!

PS: I’ll have to experiment with my own batch of preserved lemon, and write a post about it soon. I already found the perfect recipe.


(recipe adapted from The Food of Morocco by Tess Mallos)

  • 1 kg boneless lamb, cut into cubes (shoulder or leg)
  • 30 ml butter
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 5 ml ground ginger
  • 5 ml ground cinnamon
  • salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • 375 ml water
  • 100 g pitted dried dates, roughly chopped
  • pinch of saffron threads
  • 30 ml honey (optional)
  • 30 ml lemon juice
  • 1/2 preserved lemon, rind only
  • to serve: 1/3 cup toasted slivered almonds (optional)
  • to serve:  handful of fresh pomegranate seeds (optional)
  • to serve: cooked couscous


  1. Pre-heat oven to 160 C.
  2. In a large heavy-based pot/tagine on the stove top, melt the butter, then add the onions and cook over medium heat for about 8 minutes until soft and translucent.
  3. Add the ginger and cinnamon, then cook for a further minute, stirring.
  4. Increase the heat to high, then add the lamb cubes. Season with salt and pepper, then cook until the meat changes colour (it doesn’t have to brown completely).
  5. Reduce the heat, then add the water, dates and saffron. Cover with a lid, then place in the oven and cook for 2 hours. Stir once during this process to check on the meat.
  6. After 2 hours, remove from the oven, and remove the lid. Stir in the honey (optional) and lemon juice, then return to the oven for another 10 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, rinse the preserved lemon under cold water, discard the flesh, and cut the rind into thin strips.
  8. Remove the tagine/pot from the oven, then top with preserved lemon strips, toasted almonds and some pomegranate seeds (optional). Serve hot with couscous.


This post was written especially for The Pretty Blog.

Recipe testing, text and food preparation: Ilse van der Merwe from

Photographer: Tasha Seccombe

Styling: Tasha Seccombe and Nicola Pretorius

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