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Kefta tagine with herbs, spices and lemon

Recipe for kefta tagine with herbs, spices and lemon by Paula Wolfert.

By Paula Wolfert
  • Serves 5
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Kefta tagine with herbs, spices and lemon
"In some Moroccan homes where fiery dishes are appreciated, a whole dried red chilli is added to the sauce," writes Paula Wolfert. "Serve this with toasted Moroccan country bread." The bread recipe appears in The Food of Morocco.


  • 450 gm lean minced lamb or beef
  • 3 tbsp crème fraîche or grated fresh beef suet
  • 2 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp ground cumin, preferably Moroccan
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • ¾ tsp ground Ceylon cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp grated nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 tbsp roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 2 tbsp roughly chopped coriander leaves
  • 1 Spanish onion, grated
  • 30 gm unsalted butter
  • 4 tbsp saffron water (see note)
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika
  • ½ tsp ground cumin, preferably Moroccan
  • ¼ tsp ground ginger
  • 2-3 pinches of cayenne pepper
  • Pinch of ground turmeric
  • 60 gm chopped coriander leaves
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice


  • 1
    To make the kefta, combine all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until pasty. Form into 24 olive-size balls. Chill.
  • 2
    To make the sauce, set a 28cm or 30cm tagine or cazuela on a heat diffuser over a medium-low heat. Add the grated onion, butter, saffron water, paprika, cumin, ginger, cayenne, turmeric, ½ tsp salt, 45gm of the coriander and 120ml hot water. Slowly increase the heat and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer gently for 10 minutes to blend the flavours.
  • 3
    Add the kefta and poach, covered, for 30 minutes, turning them over halfway through cooking.
  • 4
    Add the lemon juice and season to taste. Transfer the hot tagine to a wooden surface or a folded towel on a serving plate (to prevent cracking). Garnish with the remaining coriander and serve directly from the tagine pot, with warm slices of toasted Moroccan bread for mopping up the sauce.


Note Using saffron in the form of saffron water is economical, and it brings out more of the spice's aroma and flavour than simply adding a few strands to a dish. So do as many Moroccan cooks do, and prepare a small jar of saffron water. Dry ½ tsp crumbled saffron strands in a warm (not hot) pan. Crush again, then soak in 240ml hot water and store in a small jar in the refrigerator. This will keep for up to a week. For longer storage, pour the saffron water into a plastic ice cube tray and freeze into cubes. Once frozen, shake out the cubes and store in a freezer bag. Each cube will be equivalent to 2 tbsp saffron water or a good pinch of dried saffron threads.The Food of Morocco ($65, hbk) by Paula Wolfert is published by Bloomsbury. This recipe has been reproduced with minor GT style changes.