Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Christmas special #5: Tagine

Considering the geographical location of the Christmas story, I think there's a lot to be said for middle-eastern inspired eating at this time of year. There's an exoticism to Christmas that often gets overlooked in the rush to eat chocolate.

Sorry about the stupid photograph. There is something really wrong with my camera (I've had this confirmed by a photographer, it's not just me being a dick) and the only picture I managed to get of the tagine made it look so utterly revolting, when it was so absolutely delicious, that I couldn't bear to post the photo.

My husband made this Michel Roux Jnr lamb tagine the other day, the recipe was sourced from The Times Weekend and it was spectacular. Really, really great and I recommend it highly. And, as almost no swearing was coming from the kitchen, I think it was pretty easy, too.

The niceness of this depends largely on what kind of meat you get, because a lot of the richness comes from the fat on the meat. Giles boned a shoulder of lamb, diced the meat and cooked the whole lot, (chucked the bone and diced skin and everything), which definitely added to the richness and general yum of the thing.

You could do this with pre-diced lamb, but I fear it won't quite be fatty enough, so if you can, seek out a boned shoulder or a shoulder and then bone it yourself (not nearly as tricky as de-boning a duck).

Lamb tagine for 4 hungry people or 6 less hungry people

1 boned lamb shoulder - the total weight is about 800g - 1kg
veg oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
3 small onions, chopped
2tsp turmeric
2tsp crushed coriander seeds
2tsp cumin seeds (or ground cumin)
The zest and juice of one lemon
(NB the original recipe said one whole lemon cut into wedges, but after much debate and soul-searching Giles decided that this made the whole thing too bitter, what with the inclusion of the pith, so has adjusted the instruction accordingly.)
1 tbsp honey - whatever you've got
300ml chicken/veg stock
50 whole blanched almonds or pine nuts, toasted

1 Preheat oven to 140C and cut lamb into chunks. Heat the veg oil in a large casserole and brown the lamb. Add garlic, onion and spices and cook over a medium heat for 15 min.

2 Add the lemon, honey and stock and bring to a simmer. Cover with a lid and cook for 1hr 15 min. I know it doesn't seem like very long for a stew and we were both sceptical, but it works. Once it's out you will probably need to add a lot of salt - probably two or three really big pinches - but the precise amount is, as always, up to you.

3 Sprinkle over toasted nuts before serving.

We had this with couscous. I am a huge fan of "jewelled couscous", as it's starting to be referred to, which is couscous with a bit of chopped mint, salt and pomegranate seeds stirred in.

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