Golden, sautéed pears served with slow-cooked, tender lamb spiced with cinnamon, ginger and pepper. Sounds delicious right? It is, as eaten and attested by several friends who gobbled up this tagine.
Moroccan food is one of my favorites because I enjoy the array of spices and ingredients used throughout the cuisine: cinnamon, cumin, ginger, pepper, coriander, paprika, saffron, mint, lemon and more. Also emblematic of Moroccan cooking is the tagine (tajine), a stew that takes its name from the cooking vessel stews were traditionally cooked in – a shallow, round earthenware base with a cone shaped lid. It is standard in North African homes, and probably most well-known in Morocco cooking. Today, the name “tagine” is also commonly used to refer to stew, as many modern Moroccan cooks now use pressure cookers.
Characteristic of savory Moroccan meat tagines is the inclusion of fruit – raisins, quinces, prunes, dates, apples and, yes, pears – this week’s featured ingredient. However, in my exploration to bring you a new use for pears, I overlooked one thing – I’m not a fan of lamb. But, my labor and intuition in the kitchen was not for naught. The stew got the thumbs up among several lamb aficionados, with particular accolades for the pears.
The recipe here is adapted from several cookbooks including Arabesque: A Taste of Morocco, Turkey, & Lebanon by Claudia Roden; Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco by Paula Wolfert; and Casablanca Cuisine: French North African Cooking by Aline Benayoun.
This tagine makes for a comforting meal with complex flavor and texture – tender lamb with a warmly-spiced, glossy sauce, and soft, sweet pears.
Tidbits on Pears:
- Pears’genus Pyrus, native to the Northern Hemisphere of the Old World, includes about 20 species, of which half are found in Europe, North Africa, and Asia minor; and the remaining half in Asia.
- In some Asian cultures, pears and pear trees were believed to ward off evil. In Egyptian antiquity, the fruit was sacred to Isis, and to Koreans, the pear symbolized grace, nobility and purity, according toThe Pear in History, Literature, Popular Culture, and Art by Jules Janick.