David Lebovitz' Lamb Tagine
I love tagine. I remember eating tagine d’agneau aux pruneaux et amandes (and pastilla, oh...) at a Moroccan restaurant on rue Madame and simply falling in love with the sensuality of Moroccan food. I couldn't wait to make one myself, but it's a dish I wanted to get right, and make with love. I still remember the savoury, sweet, spice-rich flavours of that evening more than three years ago, and didn't want that memory replaced with a mess. So when I saw David Lebovitz' recipe, I knew this is it.
He calls for lamb shoulder, and I knew my favourite butcher would help me out, and they did, with a spectacular piece of meat, deboned for me. Along with fresh spices, beautiful fragrant coriander from the grower's markets, I followed the recipe to the letter, and was rewarded with a heavenly lamb tagine, made my own with prunes and almonds, my favourite combination. And I was surprised at how easy it is to make, it really doesn't take long or much effort to prepare before going into the oven for 2.5-3 hours.
David Lebovitz' recipe can be found here, otherwise here is my adapted version:
Lamb Tagine, serves about 4
1 lamb shoulder (ask the butcher to debone it for you), cut into big chunks, at least 2 inch cubes (don't cut too small as the pieces will shrink while cooking)
1 onion, chopped
1 bunch of coriander
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon dried ginger
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
2 cinnamon sticks
Saffron threads (David calls for 20)
Half a lemon (optional)
(I don't have a tagine - one day... - so I just cooked the lamb in a pan then transfered everything to a baking dish and covered with foil).
Preheat the oven to 175C. Brown the lamb in some olive oil. The important bit is, as David points out, to let the lamb develop a nice crust and not turn the pieces over until they have. Once that is done, add some of the stock and scrape up the bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the onions, the spices and coriander, and the rest of the stock. At this point I transfered everything to a baking dish, covered with foil and popped in the oven. Bake for 2.5-3 hours, taking the lid or foil off about 30 minutes before you want to take it out so the juices cook down. Remove the coriander before serving, and if you add the juice of half a lemon. Serve with couscous.
The wonderful thing about tagine is you can add your own favourite flavours. I love prunes and almonds with lamb, so 30 minutes before I took the foil off, I added a handful of prunes and some toasted slivered almonds (whole blanched are good too). You can add any combination of dates, dried apricots, green olives, figs, raisins, sesame seeds, carrots, a squirt of honey. Chicken and fish can be substituted for lamb.
And for dessert, what could be more perfect than a pink cube of Turkish Delight?