I made an effort with the football, I really did! I sat down, shandy in hand, with the toddler and Adam and looked intently at the TV. My problem is that I zone out as soon as I see a large green pitch with little men running around on it. It’s like a form of hypnosis to me. So I gave up after 15 minutes and shopped for baby clothes online instead, a much more engaging activity.
As the game was at teatime, at half time we tucked into a heart warming, unctuous, and moreish lamb tagine that had been bubbling on the hob for almost 6 hours. It struck me that, depsite my lack of interest in the footie, I had prepared coincidentally the perfect pre or post match (or half time) meal. It’s filling, popular, and goes perfectly with beer. So if you’re having people round to watch the game during Euro 2012 then why not consider making this instead of devouring greasy pizzas or dialling the local curry house? It is literally a matter of chucking it together (even better if done in advance) and letting it cook slowly, the longer the better.
There are thousands of lamb tagine recipes out there. Each one is very much a personal interpretation, and no doubt many have moved away considerably from what you’d get on the streets of Marrakech. I used to do a Claudia Roden version which I found too, if I can be so bold, ‘authentic’ and even a bit watery; I’m afraid to say I like a sticky and very fruity tagine. Then I tried Anthony Worral Thomson’s recipe which is very tomatoey, and that I really appreciated. So this borrows from the latter, whilst alluding to the former, with a few of my own touches in the mix.
Kids love it, as do most adults. It’s colourfully nutritious, and it feels quite celebratory too, especially if served with the, as I see them, obligatory sides of spiced yoghurt, coriander, and cous cous with sultanas and almonds. And beer too of course – only a wee shandy for me though, I don’t think the baby would approve otherwise.
The amount of spices you use depends on how much meat there is. We had a small shoulder that weighed in at almost a kilo – with the bone and lots of fat on. I trimmed a large amount of fat off and also deboned the shoulder before chopping so the end result was far less meat than a kilo. If your shoulder is large or you like it spicier, then increase the amounts of spice as you like. When it comes to procuring your shoulder of lamb I would definitely visit your butcher. It will be better quality and you’ll be supporting your high street, but perhaps more importantly I actually don’t think many supermarkets sell shoulder, I certainly haven’t seen it in the aisles. They should do; it’s a cheap and tasty cut of meat, great for slow cooking. Your butcher will happily trim and chop it for you with or without the bone in.
You could make this in a slow cooker – simply add all the sweated off and browned ingredients and slow cook for 6 hours.
Serves: 6-8 people
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 4-6 hours
Total time: 4 hours 10 minutes
1.5 kg shoulder of lamb, chopped into bitesize pieces (this was a half-shoulder)
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp black pepper
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Skin of 1 lemon, peeled off in slices
4 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
2 onions, grated (or finely chopped)
3 cans of chopped tomatoes
About 30 dried apricots, halved (I like the soft ones that aren’t totally dried)
2 can of chick peas, drained
About 3/4 tablespoons of runny honey
Some vegetable oil
Handful of chopped coriander
For the cous cous:
250g cous cous
300ml stock (or water if you haven’t got any stock)
Handful of sultanas
Handful of flaked almonds
Squeeze of lemon juice
Salt and pepper (no salt if you’re using a stock cube)
Few flecks of butter
For the yoghurt:
1/2 large tub of natural or Greek yoghurt
1 small clove (or 1/2 a large clove) of garlic, grated
Splash of milk
Sprinkling of paprika
Sprinkling of ground cumin
Swirl of olive oil
- Trim any excess fat off the meat.
- Make your spice mix in a large bowl and add your chopped meat. Toss and let it marinate in the spices, ideally overnight but if this isn’t possible then at least for a few hours.
- Grate your onions if you can bear or chop finely and add to a tablespoon of heated vegetable oil in a heavy bottomed pan that has a lid.
- Let the onions sweat for about 10 minutes and add your garlic. Cook for another 5 or so minutes. You don’t want to colour your onions or garlic.
- Add your meat and turn up the heat so it browns for about 10 minutes.
- Throw in your chopped tomatoes, swirling the cans out with water (about a can’s worth) and cook for at least 2 1/2 hours over as low a heat as possible with the lid on.
- After this time, add your halved apricots, your lemon peel (I like mine in long strips and use a potato peeler to do this – they just melt into the sauce, but every now and then you get a small piece and it’s pleasingly bitter), your honey, and your chick peas.
- Cook for at least another 1 1/2 hours. As I say, I left mine on the hob for in total almost 6 hours, which sounds like a lot, but it just gets better and better. I take the lid off about 1/2 hour before I want to serve, just so the sauce reduces a little to make it sticky and delicious.
- I make my cous cous by adding boiling stock to the grains and letting them sit for 5 minutes. Then I fluff the grains with a fork, add the almonds and sultanas, squeeze some lemon over, and fleck the whole lot with butter. I cover with foil and put in a medium oven (about 150 C) for about 30 mins. You don’t have to do this last bit but I think it improves it to bake a little.
- For the yoghurt, grate the garlic into the yoghurt and lets it down a little with a splash of milk to make it more viscous. Then he sprinkles with spices and drizzles with oil. It always looks so pretty.
- Chop your coriander, assemble your accoutrements in the centre of the table and dig in.