Fig and Lamb Tagine

  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 2 1/2 lbs boneless lamb shoulder cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 medium red onions, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 3 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 oz dried figs (about 1 1/2 cups, preferably Calimyrna), hard ends discarded
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 cup walnut halves
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 small tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro or flat-leaf parsley
  1. Lightly toast saffron in a dry small heavy skillet over moderately low heat, shaking skillet, just until fragrant, about 1 minute. Transfer saffron to a small dish, and crumble with fingers.
  2. In a 12-inch tagine or shallow, covered casserole, or 12-inch skillet, combine lamb, saffron, olive oil, onions, ginger, turmeric, ground cinnamon, cinnamon sticks, 2 teaspoons salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste, tossing to combine.
  3. Add 2 cups water to tagine and simmer, covered, 1 hour. Add figs and honey to tagine and simmer, covered, 30 minutes longer, checking occasionally toward end of cooking time to be sure tagine is not dry, adding more water if necessary to keep meat from burning and sticking to pot. Tagine is done when lamb is very tender and most of liquid has evaporated.
  4. While tagine is simmering, in a small skillet, toast walnuts in melted butter over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until a shade darker and set aside.
  5. To serve, arrange tomato slices over lamb and top each with a fig. Sprinkle with walnuts and chopped cilantro or parsley.

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