Of all of my travels, I really loved Morocco. It wasn’t my all time favourite, by any means but it certainly filled me with a wonderful sense of adventure. Maybe it was for the amazing scenery that I didn’t expect. I thought it would be arid, but it was lush and mountainous. Maybe it was the food, which was a feast for the senses at every meal….or maybe it was for the crazy ass misadventures I had with my best friend who was as clueless as I was about traveling in a country where every second person is out to rip you off, or sell you for camels. We were 21 and 22 respectively, and thought we knew everything. Man, we were dumb. We got into some very near scrapes in a place where you need to have your wits about you…..but jeez, we’ve laughed at our torrid tales since, and I wouldn’t change a single moment.
I’ve seriously had this beautiful, glossy red tagine for years. It was a gift from a dear friend who knows I’ve got a penchant for all things edible and she was a little shocked to hear recently that I’ve never actually used it…..well, I have, I’ve served in it regularly, but as I already said, I was terrified my tagine wouldn’t withstand the heat and would break and then my kitchen would be minus one beautiful red tagine. Kind of silly really.
So, I decided I was going to run the gauntlet and give it a crack. I was going to truly let my tagine let it’s Moroccan flag fly and live as it was meant to. It held up well. I think it may have deepened a little in colour but maybe it’s my imagination. If you don’t have a tagine you can either use a lidded casserole dish or a cast iron pot with lid that can go in the oven. Some people brown their meat and spices on the stove top first, before transferring to oven, but I skip that step as I love to cut a corner!
It’s not rocket science to make a tagine, it’s really just a stew with a different twist, but using the tagine was a bit of an experiment. I can proudly say that I can cross this one off my winter to do list, and hold my head high with the sweet smell of success. It’s delicious……like, really.
You could use lamb shoulder already cut off the bone if you wanted, but I bought a tasty little leg and boned it myself. I served this tagine with cous cous studded with pistachios and herbs, and a simple salad of cherry tomatoes, cucumber, red capsicum, fetta, mint and coriander dressed with lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, a little sweet paprika, sesame seeds and sumac. The secret to perfect cous cous that many people don’t realise is that you need to steam it for 20 minutes after you’ve rehydrated it with boiling water. It makes your cous cous much fluffier and lighter. Add your nuts et al at the end.
Here we go….let us tagine.
Yield : 2 adults and 2 toddler portions
You will need :
- 700g lamb, chopped into 2 inch cubes
- 1 brown onion, cut into chunks
- 3 cloves garlic
- a big handful of fat green olives
- 1 preserved lemon (if you don’t have it you can use the zest of your lemon)
- 1 lemon for squeezing over tagine at the end
- 1 cup vegetable stock
- 1 bunch Dutch carrots
- 1 big handful each of parsley and coriander
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 cinnamon quill
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 1 tablespoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon tumeric
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon Ras el Hanout (optional, I used it because I have it)
- a slug of olive oil
- cous cous and salad to serve
Preheat oven to 160C.
Mix all of your spices, salt and pepper together. Pop your lamb, garlic and onion into a bowl. Scoop then flesh out of your preserved lemon and cut the rind finely (if using normal lemon, finely grate zest). Add to meat. Throw in your spices and mix well to coat. Put a glug of oil in the bottom of your tagine or pot and lay your meat mix on top. Scatter your olives over the meat, and place your cinnamon on top. Add your stock. Meat should be just covered in liquid.
Place lid on and pop into the oven and forget about it for two hours. Take it out and give it a stir, and add your carrots, immersing them in the liquid. It was still very wet so I put it back in without the lid for an hour, stirring occasionally, by which time the meat was falling apart and the sauce was rich and thick. Take out of oven and throw your fresh herbs in and give it a generous squeeze of lemon. Do a final stir and you’re done!
Serve with cous cous and salad.