Maybe one of the scariest things about dietary restrictions, for me anyhow, was the feeling of…restriction. I love food and I love to cook and I love trying new things, but dairy and eggs are backbones of so many dishes and so many cuisines. Find a dozen French recipes that don’t use butter or cream. See?! I am also, or was, a cheese junkie. Even before gluten was a real no-no and I was doing the no carb thing for vanity’s sake, I would still cheat whenever an interesting recipe called for bread or pasta. I didn’t want to deny myself the experience of trying something new or something potentially delicious and life-changing. My vanity wasn’t motivation enough.

But no more! Through marriage I adopted legitimate restrictions and they are truly a blessing. They hold me accountable and I am motivated because I love my husband a great deal. He also loves food and loves to cook and loves trying new things. Therefore, I find ways to cook the things we love and experience new things together in a way that will not harm him.

Another blessing is the way the restrictions propel me to explore techniques and ingredients. Since we can’t have the cheese and the cream and the bread, I attempt to compensate by using really delicious meats and vegetables, which led me to this lamb tagine.

I have found Indian and Moroccan cuisines to be very friendly to our lactose issues especially. If they call for milk at all, it is usually coconut milk. Earlier this week I was determined to have lamb, but didn’t have the time to slow cook it, so I decided to do a tagine with ground lamb. Most of the recipes called for lamb shoulder and stone fruits. I opted for cherries and dates. I predicted the tartness of the cherries and the caramel sweetness of the dates would go wonderfully with the lamb. Find out for yourself. 

Here’s what you’ll need:

Ras El Hanout, a Moroccan spice blend. I mixed up my own. 

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp salt

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground coriander seeds

1/2 tsp cayenne

1/2 tsp ground allspice

1/4 tsp ground cloves

Sift those together. Note that you can increase or decrease exact amounts based on personal preference. I cut back the cumin a little and added a cinnamon stick later (see below) because I wanted a sweeter and spicy dish that wasn’t dominated by cumin flavor. 

3 TBSP canola oil

2 lbs ground lamb

1 medium yellow onion, roughly chopped

1/4 cup cilantro, roughly chopped

1 cinnamon stick

2 cups water

2 cups beef stock or broth

1 cup dried cherries

1/4 cup Medjool dates, pits removed and roughly chopped

1 TBSP honey

2 TBSP toasted sesame seeds

In a large pot, preferably cast iron or enameled cast iron, heat the oil. Add the onion, cilantro, lamb, Ras El Hanout and cinnamon stick. Simmer for about 10 minutes, until the lamb is almost browned, then add water and stock. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and let simmer for about one hour. Stir periodically and skim off any fat that rises to the surface. After one hour, remove the cinnamon stick and add the dried fruits. Continue cooking for 15-20 minutes, until the mixture is getting quite thick. Stir in honey and remove from heat. Cover and let stand for about 5 minutes. Serve over rice or gluten-free grain of choice. Top with toasted sesame seeds.

We enjoyed a Grenache-Carignan blend from The Languedoc-Roussillon with this dish. 

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