A couple of months ago, my good friend P put himself on a gourmet cookery course. This was a major step for him, he being a ‘can’t boil an egg’ kind of guy. P is also what the female of the species would call “A typical man.” He is not big on chit-chat. He hides a veritable candelabra of lights under his bushel. So, while we were supping a pint or three of Guinness in our local, the Galloping Green, it surprised me, in fact it shocked me, when he said that he had cooked a Lamb Tagine as part of his course. The shock was three-fold. Fold one was that he had been on a cookery course. Fold two was that he had admitted to being there. Fold three was that he actually cooked something excellent (his wife told me). My reaction was not what it should have been. I let myself down.
I asked P where he bought his tagine. “My what?” was his reply. “Your tagine” I said in petty triumph. I then went on to pontificate (Boy, can I pontificate.) about the origins of the tagine and how P could not have cooked a Lamb Tagine because he did it in a casserole dish. I really can be an idiot when I try.
So, in a pathetic effort to assuage my guilt and remorse for my unacceptable behaviour, I undertook to cook a No Tagine Lamb Tagine. If you want to try it, you are going to need a raft of stuff. I photographed everything. Everything except the carrots, the stock, the raisins, the dried apricots and the cornflour that is. How do I manage to make a list, check everything off the list and still miss so many things? It’s a good thing that this is not my day job.
Here’s the complete list (I think):
- 2 lamb shoulders, trimmed and cubed. Don’t trim all the fat. Fat = flavour.
- 3 medium onions
- 6 cloves of garlic crushed (I used 3 single clove bulbs – see photo)
- 6 dried apricots sliced into quarters (don’t see photo)
- 6 fresh apricots, stoned and quartered
- 2 tablespoons of raisins (don’t see photo)
- 1 tablespoon of tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon of honey
- Zest of one lemon
- An inch and a half of shredded ginger. (Thanks L for the shredder.)
- 8 carrots
- 1 pint of chicken stock
- 1 teaspoon of cornstarch in half a cup of water (to thicken if needed)
- Oil for frying
- Fresh coriander
- Smoked paprika – A large tablespoon
- Cardamom – A tablespoon of pods
- Cayenne pepper – 1 teaspoon
- Cinnamon – 1 teaspoon
- Cloves – 1 teaspoon
- Coriander (ground) – 1 teaspoon
- Cumin – 2 teaspoons
- Ground ginger – 1/2 teaspoon
- Saffron – A pinch (Two if you can afford it. I used a pinch.)
- Turmeric – 1 teaspoon
Dry fry any of the spices that are not powder already. Let them cool then crush them.
Mix all the spices together and add the lamb. Mix until every piece of lamb is coated in the spices. Put this away in a cool place for at least 4 hours.
Fry it off in batches, until brown on all sides, in a large casserole dish.
Set the meat aside.
Chop the onions and add to the pan. Sweat them down for a good 20 minutes. over a low heat. This softens them and will absorb lots of the spices from the pan. Great to add depth of flavour.
Add the garlic and leave it another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add back the meat.
Add the ginger, add the tomato paste, add the carrots, add the honey, add the raisins, add the stock and add the lemon zest. Season with some black pepper and salt. Cook it in the oven at 180 C for a couple of hours. Add the dried and fresh apricots and the raisins after an hour and a half. Thicken it if you need to.
Chop and add the fresh coriander at the last-minute. Gather the clan and serve with a good quality rice.
I have proved to myself that you don’t need a tagine to cook a Lamb Tagine. I also learned that I need to show a little more respect for the efforts of my friends. Mind you, I’ll bet mine was better than his….