Lamb Meatball and Fava Bean Tagine / Morocco

This is truly a hand-crafted meal – it takes time. I know that only the most devoted will make this. But it is nothing short of spectacular and was my favorite Spring dish. I’d eat it weekly. This is how I recall Mina made for me when I lived in Marrakech.

I’m sharing it just because it is a personal favorite and, for guests, a show-stopper. As in many cuisines, the Moroccan kitchen has many helpers. This is a labor of love for me, and for a staffed kitchen, it is a snap. I strongly recommend using fresh fava beans. You may use then skin on or skin off, as I have here. Skin on is great fiber, the skin is thick and chewy, loaded with flavor. Blanched and peeled makes a professional and colorful presentation and the bean will be as sweet and tender as fresh English peas. I like it both ways. You may also try the dish with dried favas, soaked overnight with a change of water. 5 pounds of fresh favas will get you a bit more than 1 pound of beans, and could cost you around $12-15.00 fo the lot. 1 pound of dried favas wil cost you about $1.50. You decide – restaurant and guests, or family…

I wish the photos were scratch & sniff. The beauty of the Moroccan kitchen is in the layering and segregation of herbs and spices within one dish. This dish is a good example: the meatballs have their seasoning and those flavors are seared and sealed into the meatball. The vegetable part of the dish has it’s own spices and herbs. When combined, the dish is transported to a new gustatory destination.

I’ve not found this exact recipe in any Moroccan cookbook, but you will come no closer to a true Moroccan culinary experience than you’ll find in my friend, Paula Wolfert’s, “Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco” (1972). For me, Paula is the Queen of Maghrebi Cuisine – the Julia Child of the Maghreb – but much cuter!



  • 2 lbs ground lamb
  • 1/3 c flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 2 Tbs cilantro (fresh coriander) chopped
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 Tbs +1 tsp sweet paprika (combined)
  • 1 medium Spanish onion, grated
  • 1/4 rich olive oil


  • 1 lb shelled favas
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 1 pinch of saffron, pulverized
  • 1/4 tsp ground tumeric
  • 3/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 c grated Spanish onion
  • 2 Tbs fresh coriander (cilantro), chopped
  • 2-4 small dried hot peppers, whole
  • 1/4 c olive oil
  • 1/4 c fresh lemon juice
  • 1 preserved lemon, fresh discarded, rinsed & diced
  • 1/2 c Kalamata, Gaeta or Royal Victoria olives, rinsed
  • 1/2 preserved lemon, sliced, for garnish
  • 1/3 c water


THE FAVAS (using fresh):

  • Shell the favas, discard the shells
  • Prepare a large bowl with cold water and ice cubes
  • Bring lightly salted water to a boil
  • Boil the fava for 3 minutes
  • Drain the water from the favas and immerse the favas in the ice water
  • If you want to remove the skins from the beans, simply prick the skin, making a small incsion with a sharp paring knife and squeeze the bean out of the skin


  • Break up the ground lamb
  • Add the grated onion, parsley, cilantro, cumin, paprika and mix it well with your hands to thoroughly incorporate all the ingredients well.
  • Put the ball of meat into a small bowl, cover with cling wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour
  • Use a teaspoon to make the meatballs – they should be 1-1/12″, large marble sized, and put them on a platter
  • Heat the oil in a large saute to shimmering
  • Add the meat balls to the hot oil and brown on all sides
  • Remove to the platter


  • Grate the onion
  • Measure the dry spices into a small dish
  • Chop the cilantro
  • Crush the garlic
  • Squeeze the fresh lemon juice into a small dish
  • Add the oil to your cooking pan – if you do not own a tagine, use a heavy bottom pan to slow cook this dish over med-low/low heat for a couple of hours
  • Add the onions, cilantro, garlic, dried hot peppers and spices to the oil as it heats
  • Add the meatballs and favas and mix the ingredients to coat
  • add the lemon jiuce and water
  • Clean and rinse the preserved lemon, dicing 3/4 and add to the tagine
  • Cover, bring to a simmer and then reduce, covered and let it slow cook 1-1/2-2 hours
  • Add the olives about 10 minute before serving
  • Cut the remaining segment of preserved lemon into stips for garnish


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Lamb Meatball and Fava Bean Tagine / Morocco