This straightforward but divine sweet-and-savory tagine comes from the western foothills
of the High Atlas, where scattered villages sprout organically from rusty red hills. The
solid clay color of the houses is broken only by the white paint around a window or the
occasional electric blue carpet draped over a sill to dry in the sun. A young Berber chef,
Habiba Irich, prepared this tagine for me one late spring day. She laid thick slices of
onions on top of the lamb, sprinkled them with sugar and cinnamon, and left the tagine to
cook slowly on a charcoal brazier. We sipped glasses of an aromatic infusion of wild herbs
from the hills above us until the onions draped meltingly soft over the succulent lamb.
3 large red onions
Heaped 2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh flat-leaf
Heaped 2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh cilantro
3 garlic cloves, minced
3⁄4 tsp turmeric
1⁄2 tsp ground ginger
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil
21⁄4 lb/1 kg bone-in leg of lamb, cut crosswise
into 11⁄4-in-/3-cm-thick pieces
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Finely chop one of the onions. In a tagine, flameproof
casserole, or large, heavy skillet or sauté
pan, add the chopped onion, parsley, cilantro,
garlic, turmeric, and ginger. Season with salt and
pepper and drizzle in the olive oil. Mix well and
spread evenly across the bottom of the tagine.
Place the lamb pieces snugly together on top.
Cut the remaining two onions into even
B⁄d-in-/8-mm-thick slices; do not separate the
rings. Carefully lay the slices across the top of
the lamb. Sprinkle the sugar and cinnamon over
the onions. Drizzle B⁄c cup/120 ml water into the
side of the tagine so that it does not rinse the
sugar and cinnamon off the onions.
Cover and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes.
Reduce the heat to low and cook until the
lamb is very tender, 1B⁄c to 2 hours, occasionally
nudging the pieces of lamb to keep them from
sticking. Dribble in water as necessary to keep
the lamb moist, or remove the lid to evaporate
and thicken the sauce.
Serve in the tagine. Alternatively, carefully
lift out the lamb pieces topped with onion rings,
place on plates, and top with the sauce.