Lamb, fresh fig and almond tagine and fledgling couscous enthusiasts


We have a young turtle dove in temporary residence at the moment. At least I think it’s temporary. Léo found her nestling in a hole at the bottom of an oak tree and brought her into the house, claiming that she’d fallen from the nest and didn’t know how to fly. He then went on to explain that the hens are  ‘blood-thirsty and vicious she-devils’ and Hugo is an ‘irresponsible nutter’ and that she couldn’t possibly be left to fend for herself. In the face of this irrefutable logic, how could I refuse? At first Léo had to feed her himself, but after about a week she learned to peck and developed an absolute passion for couscous seasoned with Ras el Hanout. A neighbour told us that there are lots of Moroccan turtle doves that have settled in the area, which would explain her exotic tastes. This recipe is the result of my searches for ‘things to serve with couscous’ because, gorgeous as she is, I draw the line at cooking separate dishes for a month-old bird. Léo is coaching her in her valiant efforts to fly, and she now executes perfect sorties from her box to the water jug and back (photo below). And she’s apparently a lot more fun than toy helicopters because you ‘don’t have to recharge her batteries’. The jury’s still out though as to which is harder work; you don’t have to clear up helicopter mess innumerable times a day… I’m not altogether convinced that her plan is to put her flying skills to the ultimate test and up and leave, as I suspect she’ll have a bit of a hard time finding Ras el Hanout-flavoured couscous in the forest around here.


Ingredients (serves 4)

85g almonds

1kg lamb, cut into 3cm cubes

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 medium onions, finely sliced

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

3 carrots, peeled and cut into thumb-size pieces

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger

1 cinnamon stick

1 tablespoon cumin seeds

2 teaspoons ground paprika

I teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon saffron threads

2 tablespoons honey

6 fresh figs, cut in half

Fresh coriander, chopped, to serve

Toast the almonds for about 15 minutes in a small frying pan. Chop and set aside. In a medium-sized tagine or covered casserole dish (dutch oven), combine the lamb, olive oil, onions, garlic, carrots and spices, tossing well to combine. Add two cups of water, cover and gently simmer for an hour. Add the honey and figs and simmer for a further 30 minutes, checking from time-to-time that there is still some liquid (add more water if necessary). The tagine is ready once the lamb is tender and most of the liquid has evaporated. Sprinkle with almonds and coriander and serve with couscous or rice (couscous is you have an epicurean turtle dove at the table).

18 responses to “Lamb, fresh fig and almond tagine and fledgling couscous enthusiasts

  1. Oh you make me laugh, a turtle dove that eats cous cous with ras el hanout, OMG! Lovely bird and even lovlier tagine. Wonderful that Leo is learning to care for the bird, maybe he will have a career in wildlife rehabilitation and rescue. The blood thirsty hens, LOL!!!

  2. Leo is a irrefutable cutie pie! So glad he took her under his wing. Perhaps it was a ploy on the dove’s part to make it’s way into your kitchen? Only you could attract a food discerning dove, brilliant.

  3. It’s good way of learning taking care of a small animal… good for him! And lucky bird…. is eating cuscus!!! I’m sure it was amazing!

  4. Aw such a cute bird! This dish looks wonderful 🙂

  5. Wonderful combination of flavors!

  6. Lovely recipe which I’m so keen to try – I have a fig glut at the moment coinciding with cooler Autumnal evenings that are giving me an excuse for lighting the woodburner and the slow-cooking that comes with it. This will be perfect. Hope your Moroccan visitor is doing well.

    • Thank you – I hope you like it! It also works well with dried figs but obviously if you have a glut of fresh it’s a great way to use them. Slow-cooking is my favourite way with meat… Our Moroccan cutie is doing very well – still gorging herself on couscous!

  7. I love fresh figs. At one of the places where I was living when studying in Italy, my room had a balcony and the balcony had a neighbouring fig tree. Obviously truly fresh figs are hard to come by in Montréal.

    My Moroccan friends here tend to serve tagines with bread, often good wholemeal bread they’ve made themselves. But of course it is fine to have a tagine with couscous as well, though a bit “unorthodox”.

  8. Pingback: Cauliflower in turmeric chickpea batter and flights of fancy | The Healthy Epicurean

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