Mrouzia is a delicately flavored, slow cooked Moroccan lamb tagine with warm spice flavors, tender meat and topped with sweet soft raisins and crunchy toasted almonds. It's a comforting dish, that's also easy to make.
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It's been many years now since I last visited Morocco, but many things still hold in my mind. The souks, the copious amounts of mint tea and the very 'flexible' sense of time, amongst other things.
I also remember some delicious food. Yes, there was a pretty decent amount of couscous, but also some wonderfully fragrant slow-cooked meat dishes and fresh salads. While I admit I don't specifically remember this, it's certainly similar to dishes we had, and a delicious meal whenever you have it.
What is ras el hanout?
If you've delved in to Moroccan cooking, you have probably come across the spice mix, "ras el hanout". It's Arabic for "head of the shop" as it's a blend of all the premium spices.
You'll find it in Moroccan, Tunisian and Algerian cooking, in various forms. It's a common blend to add to a range of dishes, particularly slow-cooked meat dishes like this. The composition varies and can be broad, but cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, nutmeg and allspice are all common in there.
You can, of course, make your own, but you can also buy some very good blends. When you find a good one, you can instantly tell it's packed with all that wonderful spice flavor that is going to add so much to a dish.
I've used ras el hanout as a main seasoning for a few different Moroccan-inspired tagines, but this traditional dish really shows it off well.
What is mrouzia?
Mrouzia is a traditional Moroccan dish where ras el hanout is the basis of a rub/marinade for lamb shanks. You then cook them with onion and cinnamon sticks low and slow for a couple hours before adding some raisins and honey.
The result is some wonderfully warmly-spiced and tender lamb with a gently-sweet gravy. You can serve this with couscous or bread on the side to mop up all those wonderful flavors.
One thing that you really can't forget is the almonds on top. Don't think these are one of those 'if you have time' toppings, you don't want to skip these as gently frying them gives so much flavor.
Mrouzia is a wonderfully aromatic dish, with warmly spiced, tender lamb and a gently sweet honey-tinged sauce. It's one you have to wait a little time to enjoy, but it's also so easy and well worth the wait.
Try these other comforting lamb dishes:
- Braised lamb shanks
- Youvetsi (Greek lamb or beef and orzo stew)
- Roman lamb stew (abbacchio alla cacciatora)
- Turkish lamb stew with eggplant - hunkar begendi/sultan's delight
- Lamb ragu
- Plus get more comforting winter recipes in the archives.
Mrouzia (honey lamb tagine)
For lamb - prepared ahead
- 1 tablespoon ras el hanout spice blend
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 1 pinch saffron
- 1 tablespoon water
- 2 lb lamb shanks
For rest of dish
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter or ghee
- 1 onion medium, finely diced
- 1 cinnamon stick I suggest splitting in 2
- 3 cups water
- ½ cup raisins (or golden raisins/sultanas)
- 4 tablespoon honey
- ½ cup blanched almonds (whole)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
The night before cooking - marinating
- Mix together the ras el hanout, ginger, salt, pepper, saffron and water to form a paste. Rub the mixture all over the lamb shanks and place them in a dish. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
The next day - cooking
- The next day, warm the oil and butter in a pot with a lid large enough to hold the lamb shanks relatively snugly. Add the finely diced onion and cook for a few minutes to soften.
- Add the lamb shanks to the pot along with the cinnamon stick then pour in the 3 cups/720ml water. Bring to a simmer and reduce the heat and cover.
- Simmer the lamb shanks, turning occasionally as needed for around 2 hours or a little longer until pull-apart tender.
- As the lamb is cooking, cover the raisins with boiling water to re-hyrdrate them slightly. Once they swell up, drain and set aside. Also, warm the olive oil in a small skillet and fry the almonds for the topping for a couple minutes each side to gently brown. Remove from the oil and drain.
- Once the lamb is tender, add the honey and raisins. Stir to mix in. Cook, uncovered, over a medium-high heat for around 20 minutes to reduce the sauce before serving.
- Serve with couscous or bread on the side with the toasted almonds on top.
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