I’m a bit late today, for which I apologise. My Mum arrived from the States this morning and, well, there was a flat to vacuum and a bathroom to clean before I could think about WTF we are going to eat later. But while I was scrubbing the tiles, and de-cat-hairing the sofa, I decided that I wanted something quite warming (it’s still unseasonably cool here in London) so not salad, and something easy, so I’m not spending hours in the kitchen when I could be talking to her. This tagine is a perfect solution and probably the best recipe I’ve tried (and I’ve tried the likes of Moro and Claudia Roden). It’s not technically the quickest thing in the world to cook, especially not after a day at work, nor is it that short on ingredients but there is very little to do once the prep is over. And, if you are organised enough to make it the night before you want it, or early in the day, it’s very happy to be reheated. Dorie Greenspan is an American chef and not someone I’d heard of until recently. But Around My French Table is a great book (in size and content; it’s enormous) and even though the recipes look long they are really to the point and functional. I’ve written this, as ever, in my own words but unlike many a recipe, it didn’t need much adapting or cutting.
Lamb tagine with apricots (adapted from Around My French Table)
For 4 you will need (I usually make the full recipe, so that I have leftovers…):
Cupboard (or things you may already have)
2 chicken stock cubes, or a litre of fresh chicken stock
olive oil, about 90ml/6 tablespoons
garlic cloves, 4
salt and pepper
dried apricots, 100g
boneless lamb shoulder, 800g, cut into cubes
400g tinned tomatoes
dried chillis, 2 medium
coriander seeds, 1 tablespoon
saffron threads, 2 pinches
fresh ginger, a small piece (a couple of cms should be enough)
ground cumin, ½ teaspoon
ground cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon
fresh coriander, a handful
flaked almonds, 25g
couscous, rice or bread, to serve
You will also need a lidded casserole dish, about 25-30cm diameter
1. Preheat the oven to 170°C/150°C/gas 3.
2. Make up the stock cubes to 1 litre of stock with boiling water (or, if you’re using fresh stock, heat it until boiling) then tip the apricots into the liquid and leave to soak.
3. Peel and chop the onions and garlic, peel and grate the ginger (you need about ½ teaspoon), open the tin of tomatoes and drain off and discard the juice, crush the coriander seeds a bit with the back of a knife or in a pestle and mortar and rinse the fresh coriander.
4. Remove any big lumps of fat from the meat then pat it dry with kitchen towel. Put the casserole over a medium heat, add half the oil then, once it is shimmering, add the lamb cubes to the oil in batches to brown all over. Remove each batch with a slotted spoon so that the fat remains in the pan for the next lot, season and leave to one side.
5. When the meat is done, pour out the fat but leave any scraps of meat, add a couple of tablespoons more oil then add the olives and garlic and fry them a little until soft (usually a couple of minutes).
6. Next, tip in the tomatoes, season and cook for another ten minutes.
7. Remove the apricots from the stock and put to one side for a minute then add the stock to the pan along with all the spices but not the fresh coriander. Stir to mix them into the vegetables.
8. Finally, tip in the meat with its juices, the apricots and half the coriander, stir again, put some foil over the top of the casserole (as an extra lid; not sure why but seems to work) then the lid and put it into the oven.
9. Cook for an hour.
10. Add the almonds and bake for another fifteen minutes. If you’re making some couscous or rice to go with it, cook it now. Don’t bother with this step if you’re making it in advance; just add the almonds when you reheat it.
11. Once cooked, sprinkle over the remaining coriander and serve with some couscous, plain rice or bread.