Now that The Big Chill has finally arrived in Brussels I just HAD to make one of my favourite winter warming stews which has been on the menu for over a decade now: Lamb Tagine. I would love to be able to say that this dish has been inspired by the wonderful Morroccan restaurants in my neighbourhood, but sadly no - it is of unashamedly British origin as I've adapted it from a recipe from the BBC's first ever cookery program "Food and Drink". (UK viewers will surely remember this culinary weekly must-view from the days when there were only four channels: hosted by "Big Face" Chris Kelly, it also launched the careers of the two 'wine experts' "Tipsy" Oz Clarke and "Mad Nose" Jilly Goolden.) However, the chef behind this recipe was "Larger Than Life" Antony Worrall Thompson (aka "The Forgetful Cheese and Wine Shopper"...)
But I digress so back to the dish: It is incredibly easy and SO SO delicious... I do not like cinammon in baking or desserts, but I adore it in savoury dishes - and here, together with the honey and the spices, it fills the house with the most amazing, North African aromas - simply divine:
1/8 - 1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tbs paprika
1 tbs ground ginger
1 tbs tumeric
2 tbs cinnamon
1 kg shoulder of lamb, trimmed of fat and cut into 5cm chunks*
4 tbsp olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 x 400g cans of chopped tomatoes
115g chopped dried apricots*
50g each of chopped dried dates, figs and/or raisins/sultanas
1 little round container of ground saffron (or 1 tsp stamens, soaked in cold water)
500 ml beef stock (from a cube)
1 tbsp runny honey
3 tbs of chopped coriander
Combine the peppers, paprika, ground ginger, tumeric and cinnamon. Place the lamb in a large bowl and toss well with half of the spices. Cover and leave to marinate (ideally overnight).
Preheat the oven to 180°/fan 160°. Heat 2 tbs of the oil in a large pan. Add the onions, ginger and the rest of the spice mix and cook over a gentle heat until soft and aromatic. Tip into a casserole dish.
Add the rest of the oil and brown the pieces of lamb (you might have to do this in two batches), then add to the casserole dish. Deglaze the pan with some of the stock, making sure to scrape off all the lovely bits of stuck-on marinade. Add to the casserole with the rest of the stock, chopped tomatoes, honey and saffron.
Bring to the boil, cover with the lid and cook in the oven for 2 1/2 to 3 hrs until the meat is meltingly tender.
Sprinkle with the coriander and serve with steamed couscous. Serves 4 - 6.
To make this dish more economical, I always buy a whole shoulder of lamb and debone it myself - 1.5kg/1.7kg yields exactly 1kg of trimmed meat. It really isn't difficult to do this yourself: http://youtu.be/YUV2_Z4M2Ag
You can, of course, use any combination of these dried fruits - Aldi sell fantastic value 200g re-sealable bags of soft apricots, dates and figs for €1.29 each.