LaKama is a spice mixture found only in Northern Morocco, and it is used to flavor soups and tagines. Moroccan food — part Arab and part Berber — is not like Middle Eastern. Its cooking and spice mixtures are unique and change from region to region. I don’t know of any other Arab country that has such a rich and varied cuisine.—Paula Wolfert
For the LaKama Spices
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon finely ground black pepper
1 tablespoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons ground Ceylon or Mexican cinnamon
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
For the tagine
1 pound (18 to 20) unpitted large prunes, preferably Oregon’s moyer prunes
3 pounds lamb shoulder, cut into 2-inch chunks
2 tablespoons olive oil or butter
3 large garlic cloves, crushed with 1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon LaKama spices
Pinches of saffron
1 teaspoon Ceylon or Mexican cinnamon
1 tablespoon orange flower water
2 to 3 tablespoons sugar
1 c blanched almonds, toasted in a slow oven (300°F) until golden brown
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
For the spice mix
1. Combine spices in a small bowl. Set aside.
Make the tagine
1. Soak the prunes in warm water. Set aside.
2. Trim the lamb of excess fat. In a wide tagine or cazuela set over a flame tamer, or in a skillet slow-cooker, heat the butter with the garlic, LaKama spices, and saffron. Add the meat and stir until the aromas of the spices are released and the meat is nicely coated.
3. Add 2 cups water (it doesn’t have to cover the meat), bring to the boil, then lower the heat, cover, and simmer gently for 2 hours (3 to 5 hours in the skillet -slow cooker).
4. After 1 hour, transfer 1/2 cup of the meat juices to a medium skillet, add the drained prunes, cinnamon, orange flower water, and sugar, and cook slowly until the prunes are lightly caramelized, about 25 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat.
5. When the meat is tender, about 2 hours, remove from the heat. Push the prunes to one side in the skillet; return to medium heat. Working in batches, brown chunks of drained lamb in the syrupy prune juices until glazed on all sides.
6. Skim all the fat off the meat juices in the clay pot. Return the lamb, add the prunes and reheat. Decorate with almonds and sesame seeds and serve.
Note: If desired, prepare the dish one day in advance. Allow to cool completely. Store meat, prunes, and sauce in separate containers. The following day, remove the fat that surfaces. Combine meat, prunes, and sauce in a cazuela, tagine or shallow ovenproof serving dish, cover, and set in a cold oven. Turn the heat to 325°F (160°C) and reheat until hot. Serve from the clay dish garnished with the almonds and sesame seeds.
Recipe © 2003 Paula Wolfert. All rights reserved.