Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
7 Dec

Lamb and Prune Tagine

Lamb TagineThe name of this recipe doesn’t really do the dish justice. Prunes just aren’t sexy ingredients, even if you call them dried plums. But the way they meld with lamb, creating a perfect sweet and savory flavor, is nothing short of transcendent.

Every bite combines a meaty, tender morsel of lamb with a hint of sweet, soft prune. Saffron, turmeric, ginger, garlic and onion add layers of warm, complex flavor. This is a simple throw-it-in-the-pot-and-let-it-simmer kind of meal that’s dinner party and holiday worthy.

The ingredients in this tagine were chosen because they taste incredible together, but as a bonus they offer plenty of health benefits too. Turmeric is a promising weapon against inflammation, cancer and dementia. Ginger is a digestive aid, and onions and garlic add to your intake of sulfur-rich vegetables. Lamb is a great source of B vitamins, niacin and zinc and prunes have a decent amount of antioxidants. Prunes fall into the “sensible indulgences” category, but if you want to add even fewer prunes than the recipes calls for, go ahead. The dish will still taste great.

But don’t obsess about all those health benefits while you’re eating. Just enjoy the unique and complex flavors of a comforting and delicious meal. And pray that you have leftovers, because this lamb and prune tagine tastes just as good (if not better) the next day.

Servings: 4 to 6

Time in the Kitchen: 3 hours


  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil (45 ml)
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped or pressed
  • 1-inch (2.5 cm) piece of gingerroot, peeled and thinly sliced or finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric (2.5 ml)
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled (2.5 ml)
  • 2 1/2 pounds lamb shoulder, cut into 3-inch cubes and seasoned with salt and pepper (1.13 kg)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 cup pitted prunes, halved (140 g)


Heat the coconut oil over medium heat in a wide, deep pot or saucepan. Add the onion, garlic, ginger and turmeric. Sauté 3 to 5 minutes.

Add the saffron and lamb and saute a few minutes more to lightly brown the meat. Add the cinnamon stick and just enough water to cover the meat, about 3 cups.

Step 1

Bring the water to a boil then cover the pot and reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer gently until the lamb is very tender, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. If necessary, add more water as the lamb cooks to keep the top of the meat from peaking out of the water and drying out.

Step 2

Remove the cinnamon stick. If desired, skim excess oil off the top. Add the prunes and a sprinkle of sea salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Keep the lid off the pot and simmer 20 to 30 minutes more, reducing the liquid and softening the prunes.

Lamb Tagine

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Before going primal I had never had lamb. Now I can’t imagine not having it! It is one of those things that make this lifestyle so much more rewarding. Crazy how the door to food actually opened instead of close.

    Tamara Warren wrote on December 7th, 2013
    • What NEVER?!? I mean you’d never, ever, ever had roast leg of lamb before going Primal?

      Was there a reason you avoided it or did it just never feature in your culinary landscape?

      Anyway, if ‘prunes’ aren’t a sexy dried fruit then perhaps we should call them ‘sugar plums’ which I think they were once been called. (and if they weren’t then we could still call them by this more romantic name :-)

      Primal-V wrote on December 8th, 2013
      • Tamara, same thing here! Sure I had lamb before, but nowadays I really branch out with my food. My friend said last night that I must feel so deprived and I was like, what are you talking about?! Gee, wow, how will I survive without spaghetti… By eating Lamb Tagine with Saffron. No. Deprived I am not!

        And the mention of sugar plums makes me think of taking a walk on the the wild side. Rest in peace, Lou Reed.

        Samantha wrote on January 7th, 2014
  2. This sounds delish – I tried a recipe for lamb with dates, which has become a family favourite with cauli couscous, so they should like this too!

    Grokesque wrote on December 7th, 2013
  3. I do a variation of this with pork and frozen plums that I harvest from my neighbor’s tree when she has had her fill. My kids love it! Also good with apricots.

    CrazyCatLady wrote on December 7th, 2013
  4. This reminds me of the lamb stew that Katniss loved so much in the Hunger Games books — as in, it had lamb and prunes. It sounded awesome, so I definitely want to try this!

    I’m pretty sure you could use that tie-in to get kids to eat it, too!

    Deanna wrote on December 7th, 2013
  5. I will try this, although I will probably make a variation. Lamb shoulder is a very tough cut of meat and definitely requires marinating and braising in an acid. I highly prefer using lamb shoulder chops and keeping the lamb shoulder meat on the bone. Sear both sides of the chops, then marinate in red wine and the above spices/garlic in the fridge for 3 hours. Pour all contents into a pan or dutch oven. I prefer braising in a 250F oven for 3.5 hours as opposed to the stove top. When the meat is pulling away from the bone, take out the meat and let it rest under a foil tent. Meanwhile, make a sauce with the pan juices. Finely chop the prunes (and I highly recommend dried apricots as well) in a food processor or use a chef’s knife. Add the prunes and the apricots to the sauce and simmer whisking frequently until slightly reduced. Gradually add 2 tbsp butter to the sauce constantly whisking. Add s/p as necessary. Serve with white rice or cauliflower rice and some greens. THAT is how you prepare lamb shoulder to perfection.

    Erin wrote on December 7th, 2013
    • Wouldn’t doing this with a slow cooker help out with the toughness?

      Darcie wrote on December 7th, 2013
      • I hate slow cookers. I always **** up the meal when I use them. If you properly marinate and cook it low and slow, it will turn out perfectly.

        Erin wrote on December 7th, 2013
  6. Lamb shoulder is kinda hard to find in my area. But I do have a boneless leg of lamb from Costco in my fridge. Do you think that will work, or would it be too lean?

    Eric wrote on December 7th, 2013
    • IMHO no. Not much difference in the fat content between shoulder and leg. Got two lambs in the freezer, raised drug-free and pastured by a friend. This recipe will be tried this weekend :-)

      Cody wrote on December 7th, 2013
  7. like the Moroccan foods

    fitness wrote on December 7th, 2013
  8. Sunday lunch tomorrow – just come home with half price diced lam from the supermarket! I have no prunes in, if I cant get any tomorrow I may substitute raisins or dried figs.

    Fitness you mention Moroccan, but this is also quite similar to medieval English recipes, I have made a 16th century English recipe before for “Pyes of Mutton or Beefe”, which is a sweet meat pie with prunes or figs and spices… I was thinking of making one for Christmas this year, perhaps even with a Spelt flour hot-crust pie case (can always be used as a handle and chucked away once you have eaten the meat…)

    Fifer wrote on December 7th, 2013
  9. I love lamb and I love prunes will definitely try this.

    Annakay wrote on December 7th, 2013
  10. Forget the prunes. Apricots! Local coffee shop owner from Jordan used to make this lamb and apricot stew. Amazing.

    chris wrote on December 7th, 2013
  11. It must be something about our rainy weather, because I actually made a lamb tagine on monday and it was both delicious and so filling. For people who might be looking at this an feel intimidated by ingredients such as saffron and turmeric, there are some really good pre-mixed Tagine spice options in stores, I am pretty sure Whole Foods caries one.

    Alessandra wrote on December 7th, 2013
  12. What is everyone’s take on lamb? i can get lamb from outside the U.S. at Costco so i usually try to get it there in hopes that other countries practice better farming than our country’s factory farms. But sometimes I get U.S. lamb at the grocery store but i’m not sure about the lamb industry in the U.S. I just don’t know about it. i just made ground lamb meatballs with leftover cranberry sauce i made from Thanksgiving. They were phenomenal with the tangy cranberries!! and i didn’t have to throw away the homemade sauce when we ran out of turkey!

    Ashley wrote on December 7th, 2013
    • New Zealand is good for lamb; the sheep are all grass-fed and production/ import costs are fairly low. A lot of the lamb we get in the UK is imported from New Zealand; I almost struggle to understand how it still manages to be cheaper than UK-raised lamb, even though its been shipped literally all the way across the world!

      Jack S wrote on December 7th, 2013
  13. Is that mint on top?

    Joseph wrote on December 7th, 2013
    • I was wondering if it were cilantro? That’s what I’ll use. Quite often when I’m making a “let simmer for a few hours” recipe, I will make it in my cast iron (laCrueset style) pan and pop it in a 250* oven for an hourly more if I need to be away from the kitchen for any reason. The recipe keeps simmering, but there is less chance of burning and I’m not committed to hanging about for three hours. It can simmer without a lid the rest of the time, when I’m home.

      Marti wrote on December 8th, 2013
  14. Well I made it for Sunday lunch and it was delicious. I found an out-of-date tin of prunes in the back of the cupboard. I also remembered I had some fresh turmeric in the fridge as well as fresh ginger so that was an extra luxury! Thanks for this superb recipe.

    Fifer wrote on December 8th, 2013
  15. Hmmm, has anyone had this dish made with goat or venison? I’he found young goat has a much milder flavor than lamb, so would the stronger flavor of mature goat be more appropriate for this dish? I’ve also found venison hunted in the deep south to have a much milder flavor than the larger animals I grew up eating, (and didn’t care much for) up north. Would milder flavor meats get lost in this dish?

    goat wrangler wrote on December 9th, 2013
  16. I made this last night and thought it was good. I will probably play around with the ingredients and add a bit more of something also I will probably add sweet potatoes as well. Good recipe!

    Anastasia Karas wrote on December 11th, 2013
  17. For this novice cooker the recipe seemed easy and quite doable. Last night I surprised my wife with this dish, and it was an absolute success! Thanks for posting this recipe. It was quite easy to follow, and I truly enjoyed preparing and eating it!

    Norm wrote on December 12th, 2013
  18. This was great! I made it tonight, adapting it a bit based on a similar recipe in a tagine cookbook I already owned. I added apricots along with the prunes, along with a drizzle of honey. It’s a keeper. We ate it with a big crispy salad topped with pomegranate seeds.

    Viv wrote on December 15th, 2013
  19. Ooh! Did this in the slow cooker today – the only lamb I had in the freezer was a 1kg butterflied leg, so I defrosted it, threw it in the crock along with the spices and enough water to cover it, set it to low at 7:30am just before leaving for work… Forgot I had to get home on time to turn it off (whoops), so got back in 11 hours later to – no joke – the best lamb I have ever eaten. As an Aussie I tend to have lamb once or twice a week (it’s so easy to get a hold of, and southwest Victoria is perfect for pasture-feeding) and I think this recipe will be made again and again!

    Allison wrote on December 16th, 2013
  20. If you take a small quantity, say a few sprigs of saffron and soak them in warm water (3 sprigs / litre) for 20 minutes or until they are white, then add this water to the meat you will use less of the expensive spice and get better flavours.

    Todd Myers wrote on January 25th, 2014
  21. I made this last night, incredible! I’ll definitely be making this dish again.

    Jeff wrote on January 27th, 2015

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