Thursday 20 January 2011

Libyan Lamb Casserole with Carrots and Green Olives: Tajin Sfinari bil Zaytun طاجن الجزر بالزيتون الأخضر على الطريقة اليبية

Tagine in Libya doesn't refer to the distinctive Morrocan cooking vessels, it just means casserole.

This colourful Tagine is distinctly North African, its combination  of carrots and green olives is popular in the region, and it is similar to an Algerian chicken, preserved lemons and green olives recipe.   The Libyan casserole diffrentiates itself from the latter by its unusual mix of flavourings: caraway (which goes really well with the carrots) is dominant, but without overwhelming the lemon, cinnamon,  harissa and parsley.

Nowadays a Libyan Tajin is usually made by cooking the meat or chicken in a pot and then adding it to the rest of the ingredients in a pyrex dish. The traditional method  uses an ovenproof  clay casserole dish (pictured above) that goes from stove top to oven (they used  to be sent to the neighbourhood bakery).  A Moroccan Tagine or Dutch oven would also make this a one-pot meal.  When I don't have time for slow cooking I use a pressure cooker for the meat in which case this casserole takes about 1 hour cooking time (15 minutes for the lamb and 45 minutes in the oven).

Serves 6

1 kilo veal or lean lamb (deboned and diced into bitesize pieces)
Bone or 1 litre stock
1  kilo carrots sliced diagonally (more surface to absorb the flavour!)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger (or ground ginger )
2 cinnamon sticks
2 teaspoons caraway seeds
salt and pepper to taste
Handful good quality pitted green olives
1 heaped teaspoon harissa (homemade or commercial)
Before Serving
Olive oil 
 juice of one lemon
1 cup chopped parsley

           Place the onion and spices in the pan with olive oil, and stir on medium heat.

                                                      Add the diced lamb or veal

                               Stirring occasionally until it is evenly browned

Add about one litre water and a bone, or cook in stock. Cover and leave to cook on a medium heat until the meat is just done, at this point the stock should be reduced to about half the amount (concentrated).

Remove the meat from the pot with a slotted spoon and place in an ovenproof dish, cover it with the cooking liquid after straining it through a sieve (fine enough to catch the  caraway seeds)

Add carrots sliced at an angle to the meat and broth, cover tightly with foil or your ovenproof pot lid, and place in the oven for about 45 minutes at  250 °C.

When the carrots are fork tender the lamb should practically melt in your mouth.

Add a teaspoonful of harissa, and mix it in the sauce. Scatter olives on top and place the Tajin in the oven for about 10 minutes without a cover.  When some of the sauce has evaporated and the lamb has browned slightly, remove from the oven. Don't let it dry out!

Add the fresh lemon juice over the Tajin and drizzle generously with olive oil, then garnish with chopped parsley.  Eat with with warm Arabic bread to soak up the sauce.

16th Mediterranean cooking event - Libya - tobias cooks! - 10.01.2011-10.02.2011


  1. Hi there!
    I am doing a blog event on Mediterranean Food. This month the topic is Libya. Maybe you would like to participate with a dish. Here is the link to the event.

  2. Thank you for letting me know about your event! I'm definitely planning on participating :)

  3. Thats great Tasnim! Thanks for participating with so many dishes. They all look delicious and I will be writing the roundup soon. Could you please also add a text link to the event somewhere in your text?!

    All the best

  4. I added a post on the event, posted 11 Feb. I thought I might as well include all our valid recipes since Libyan food is relatively unknown and this is a great way for people to learn more about food from different countries. Thanks again for inviting me to participate :)

  5. Welcome to the blog and thank you for commenting. I'm glad you liked the recipe :)