Garlicky Algerian Tagine (M'thawwam)

An Algerian staple, Tagine M’thawwam features two types of meat and garlic cooked three ways with chickpeas, almonds and parsley.

An Algerian staple, Tagine M’thawwam features two types of meat and garlic cooked three ways with chickpeas, almonds and parsley.

Growing up in Michigan, we had about a dozen Algerian families that got together a few times a year. These gatherings were potluck style, with every family bringing a dish or two. Someone always brought Tagine M’thawwam, a garlicky tagine and a guaranteed crowd pleaser. Sometimes it was made with chicken and sometimes with lamb, but always with beef meatballs. “Meat-on-meat” is the way we would describe it when were young (also a testament to our tolerance and love of garlic since that wasn’t even noticed. But as adults, the variety of proteins is delightful, especially when served with one of those monumental Algerian salads and warm bread. You don’t need a huge portion, but make sure to add some fresh harissa so you can round out your experience of garlic three-ways. Browned garlic in the stew, minced but cooked garlic in the meatballs, and raw minced garlic in the harissa.


Garlicky Algerian Tagine

by Sakina| April 2019

  • Prep time: 30 minutes
  • Cook time: 1 hour
  • Inactive time: 0 minutes
  • Total time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Servings: 6-8


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound lamb or beef chunks *
  • 1 medium sweet onion, diced
  • 1 head of garlic (about 6 cloves), peeled and minced; plus 5 cloves of garlic peeled *
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 pound ground beef *
  • ¼ bunch flat leaf parsley, thick stems trimmed (about 1 inch) *
  • ½ cup fresh bread
  • 2 tablespoons buttermilk or milk *
  • 2 tablespoons toasted almonds
  • Pinch harissa powder or ⅛ teaspoon paste
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 egg white *
  • 8 ounces pre-cooked chickpeas * (see note)
  • 3 cups hot water or low-sodium beef stock *
  • Toasted almonds, harissa and parsley for serving *


  1. In a tagine or heavy bottom pot on medium heat, heat the olive oil until shimmering.
  2. Add the lamb and sear on both sides.
  3. Add the onion and sauté until translucent.
  4. Add the minced garlic, cumin, ground pepper, and salt. Continue to sauté and mix, scraping the bottom brown bits.
  5. Add beef stock, bring to a simmer. Cover and let the meat slow cook on medium low heat for 30 mins.
  6. While the meat is cooking, prepare the meatballs.
  7. In a food processor, combine 5 peeled cloves of garlic, parsley, bread, buttermilk, almonds, harissa, salt and pepper. Process until minced well combined.
  8. Place the ground beef in a large bowl and add the bread mix and egg white. Combine without overworking the meat. Roll the meat into medium sized meatballs. Place the meatballs in the refrigerator until ready to use.
  9. Test the lamb that has been cooking for salt and pepper as well as donness. Before adding the meatballs in, the lamb should be slightly tender, and almost done. The salt and pepper should be adequate. If not, this is the time to correct. There should also be enough liquid or sauce to cover up to half of each meatball. If you need additional stock, or water, make sure to warm it before adding it. Don’t add too much, a thicker sauce is desirable.
  10. Gently add the meatballs to lamb sauce. Lower the temperature if the stew is boiling and breakign the meatballs apart.
  11. Add in the chickpeas, and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for 20 mins.
  12. Garnish with almonds and parsley prior to serving. Serve warm.
  13. Serve warm with a side salad and bread, such as kissra.


  1. Meat cooking times can vary, so don't be afraid to take out a piece and testing.
  2. If you would like to used dried chickpeas, soak them the night before and add them in step 5.

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