12 February 2011

Rabbit and Merguez Tagine

I have two tagines, those lovely Moroccan cooking dishes. The big one is a traditional cone-shaped one, made from glazed terra cotta. I bought it from a Moroccan shop in our town not long after we moved here. I fell in love with it when I first saw it--it’s old, a little wonky, a little chipped. It wasn’t new when I bought it. The shop owner tried to talk me out of that particular one, pointing out that there were new, colorful ones available. I can only use it for serving, not for cooking. It’s too big for my oven, and I can’t use it on the stovetop because the bottom’s not exactly flat. But I love it.

My other tagine has a different shape. It’s a Berber tagine, with a domed top. It’s terra cotta too, but it’s not glazed. This is the one I cook in. The inside has developed a lovely patina from the food that’s been cooked in it. After I wash it (NEVER with soap!) I rub it with oil and heat it gently in the oven to keep it seasoned. It’s made us some wonderful meals. Today was no exception.

As I write this recipe, I realize that I have access to a wonderful variety of food. It makes me very grateful.

I had a saddle of rabbit. This is the back of the rabbit, from about the armpits down to about the waist. Rabbit is a lovely meat, a little like chicken but it has a slightly wilder flavor. In this tagine it was perfect. If you can’t get rabbit, you can use chicken. I’d probably use the thighs in this--you want a piece that will stand up to long cooking.

To go with the rabbit I bought two merguez sausages. I’ve written before about these spicy lamb sausages. We love them. There’s a butcher in a nearby village who makes his own. Most of the lamb available here now is from New Zealand. Since I don’t like to eat food that has jet lag, I asked him where the lamb came from. From the Netherlands, he said. Then he told me the farm and the name of the farmer and the breed of the lamb. Oh, yes. I like this shop!

In this same shop I bought a citron confit, or preserved lemon. This one was preserved in salt and had been rinsed so that it felt like a little yellow balloon that would burst if I squeezed it. It was mildly salty and veryvery lemony. The wonderful thing about these lemons is that you can eat all of them: peel, seeds, pulp. They have a uniformly fresh, lemony taste and they don't turn to mush when they’re cooked. They add little morsels of bright lemon taste to the rich umami of this dish.

If you can’t find merguez, you can use any spicy sausage. Or just leave it out and go with the rabbit. Or the chicken--I’m not fussy. The wonderful thing about tagines is that you can use what you have. Like most of my recipes, this one is very flexible. You want to be sure that you have things with definite flavors, though, or you’ll be disappointed.

I used grenadine juice for the liquid in this dish. I liked the deep tang that it added, but you could use any fruit juice or stock or even water. In the recipe I put harissa, a spice paste from Morocco. In fact, I was out of harissa (how did that happen? Heads will roll...) so I used a spoonful of Indian lime pickle--very hot and spicy. You want something to add a little fire to the dish. You won't be sorry, I promise.

Rabbit and Merguez 

1 saddle of rabbit
2 merguez
1 Tablespoon oil
3 cloves garlic
1 onion
2 carrots
1/2 cup olives
3 stalks celery
fresh ginger
1 citron confit
6-8 prunes
1 cup pomegranate juice
1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
1/2 tsp fresh ground cardamom
1 teaspoon harissa or hot lime pickle
  • Preheat oven to 200 C / 400 F
  • Cut up the rabbit: begin by opening it out and cutting off the thin side muscles. Cut those into strips and set aside. Cut the remainder in half down the backbone and then cut each piece into four. Don’t worry about the bones, just cut it in four pieces.
  • Chop the onion and the garlic.
  • Heat the oil in a large pan over medium high heat. When it’s hot, add the large pieces of rabbit and the sausages. You want to brown them on all sides, giving them some color. They won’t be cooked through, but should have some nice color on them. Remove the rabbit to a plate. Remove the merguez and cut it into pieces. 
  • Add the onion, the garlic, and the strips of rabbit. Cook until the rabbit and the onion has some color. Remove.
  • Deglaze the pan with some of the pomegranate juice and reserve the juice (you’re just re-capturing the flavor from the pan in this step) 

  • Cut the carrots into rounds and slice the celery. Put them in the bottom of the tagine.
  • Peel the ginger and cut it into thin sticks. Add them to the tagine.
  • Coarsely chop the prunes and add them to the dish.
  • Add the meats, the onion and the garlic to the dish. Scatter the olives over this
  • Chop the citron confit into small pieces and add them to the dish
  • Mix the pomegranate juice (don’t forget the juice from the pan) with the cinnamon, the cardamom and the harissa. Pour this over everything in the tagine.
  • Cover the tagine and put it into the oven for about an hour.

Serves 4 if they like it and 10 if they don’t


  • We served this over couscous with fresh veggies. My wonderful husband found me some gluten free couscous made from rice and corn, so I could eat it.
  • I used a mixture of pink and black olives. They had pits in them. We didn’t care.
  • The rabbit had bones in it. We didn’t care. We just put a bone/seed bowl on the table and have at it.
  • Likewise we put the pieces of cinnamon stick in the bone bowl.
  • This is one of those wonderful dishes that can cook for a long time or a shorter time. I think it probably needs at least 40 minutes or so. It can keep in the oven for a long time though. Great for those dinner guests you know are always late... 


La Table De Nana said...

I would have insisted on the chippie tagine things with character..Only in Europe..can you regularly shop the little Puces and find not as much..

Rabbit is becoming very popular here I have never had it ..always have preserved lemons in our fridge.. hoping to be making dishes like yours soon,..
It looks delicious Kate..Thank you for sharing this interesting recipe..

Pam said...

I love all things old and wonky and chipped.

Susan said...

Ohhhhh ... I wish I could be a guest at your table! , too, love claypot cooking, but I'm still new to it ... this rabbit is wonderful!

The Gypsy Chef said...

Hi Kate,
Happy Valentines Day! I am glad you bought the wonky tangine, it went to a good home. This recipe sounds yummy. Not only do I want to try it, but I want to make preserved lemon also.

WizzyTheStick said...

Love the unfussy recipe and the chipped tangine, comfort food for sure

Barbara said...

Perfect, Kate. I would have chosen the wonky one too!
We made a rabbit dish a few weeks ago. I have one market that carries it off and on, but there is always D'Artagnan. They are a marvelous mail order company and have everything you could ever want. (Also where I got my duck confit to make your dish a while back.)
I've been dying to make preserved lemon. And I love how flexible your recipes always use what you have. This looks marvelous!

Stella said...

Oh Kate! This is the kind of food I grew up eating for a large portion of my young life, so I kind of just drooled (smile but seriously). And I love your rustic tagine. It looks very functional, which is how they should be. Who needs a big fancy one anyway?!
p.s. That bottom photo is amazing, Lady;-)

A Canadian Foodie said...

What a wonderful piece. I gt attached to specific dishes, too - like my ancient roaster from my dad's mom... the more used and abused (so to speak) the more history and love. The dish sounds divine. My husband would hate it. Sometimes he really cramps my style! ;)
I love all of the flavours in it. I don't understand why rabbit is all over Europe and so hard to find here. Odd. It is delicious.
Here's the wild thing: I have never heard of Merguez sausage - but we just made our own Saturday night, and I have just finished posting it seconds ago - then open your post to read!
The history of this sausage is very interesting (read in Ruhlman's Charcuterie). I love them, too!

heather jacobsen said...

Yum! I've never tried rabbit before. That's not something you see regularly in the US markets. But I love Moroccan spiced anything, and your combination of ingredients sounds perfect! Nice picture too. :)

Chris and Amy said...

We just picked up a cooking tagine. Thanks for this unique recipe! Now, to find rabbit...

Anonymous said...

thanks for this nice post 111213

Anonymous said...

thanks for this tips

Junglefrog said...

It's funny but we recently had a discussion on tajines and if we should get on ourselves. I love this dish and you've just convinced me I have to have one too... :)

Sprinzette @ Ginger and Almonds said...

I don't often cook rabbit, but this is something I certainly have to try - love merguez. Thanks for the inspiration.

Chris and Amy said...

We just found your blog and after reading a few entries have to say we love it! Coincidentally, just picked up a non-wonky tagine, so thanks for the inspiration!

Pegasuslegend said...

Very interesting dish always wanted to try this now you have given me a reason sounds terrific and thank you so much for the visit!