Chef Tom – Moroccan Lamb and Preserved Lemons

Some recipes you just keep going back to. I found this one two decades ago. It allows me do a bit of travel, at least in my mind. The name conjures up blue walls, dark skin and gold teeth beneath red fez, narrow winding aisles in the noisy souk, pyramid shaped piles of exotic spices, and on and on.

Narrow alley in blue streets of Chefchaouen, Morocco.

Blue Walls …

…and Piles of Exotic Spices

Tagines can be complicated, this one’s pretty easy. I like how you put everything in a large bowl and just let it sit overnight. You could take the extra steps and brown the lamb and caramelize the onions first, but you don’t need to. Want to impress your guests at your next dinner party? Serve this with a simple couscous that has bits of dried apricot, chopped pistachio and a julienne of mint.

Lamb Stew

Moroccan Lamb Stew with Olives and Preserved Lemons

Serves 6-8

3 pounds boneless lamb stew meat, from the shoulder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 pinch saffron threads

1 orange, zested and juiced

1 small bunch cilantro, stems removed

3 cloves garlic

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 yellow onions, halved root to stem, sliced into ¼-inch slices

1 can fire-roasted tomatoes (14-ounce) with juice

1 cup chicken stock

1 cup pitted green olives, sliced in half lengthwise (castelveltrano are perfect)

1 whole preserved lemon, peel only, julienned (see below)

Trim excess fat and gristle from meat and cut lamb into 1-inch cubes (good to leave SOME fat, for extra flavor). Place meat in a large bowl. In a small bowl, mix the cumin, ginger, cinnamon, and saffron; sprinkle over the meat, mix to coat, and set aside.


On a cutting board, mince together the orange zest, cilantro leaves, garlic, and salt until you have a paste. Add to the meat along with the juice from the orange, and stir well to coat. Cover the bowl and let stand at room temperature for 2 hours, or up to overnight in the refrigerator.

Transfer the mixture to a heavy pot, add the onions, tomatoes, and stock. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven until the meat is very tender, about 2 hours. Add olives and, if using, preserved lemon to the pot. Cook about 10 minutes more, then serve.

Preserved lemons with sea salt and spices. Moroccan cuisine.


Preserved Lemons (easy)

6 whole lemons (I like Meyers)

1 cup kosher salt

2 bay leaves

1 cinnamon stick

2 fresh red or green chilies, left whole

Olive oil to cover

Slice each lemon into quarters, from stem to root, not slicing all the way through. Add to a big bowl and cover with the salt. Toss gently. Place the quartered lemons into a clean jar big enough to hold them. Distribute the bay leaves, cinnamon stick and chili peppers evenly into the jar. Cover lemons with good olive oil. Screw the lid back on and keep the lemons in the fridge for at least two weeks to preserve.

To use (the usual way), spear out a lemon, scrape away the pulp, and julienne or chop the peels to use as a garnish or a flavoring ingredient. Will keep in the fridge for up to a year.


Chef Tom is currently Resident Chef for a small tech firm in San Francisco. He also teaches cooking classes, caters small parties and leads overseas culinary tours. His specialty for the last twelve years has been cooking for people with food allergies and sensitivities. His motto is “Food should give you pleasure, not pressure.”

Check him out at

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