Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Christmas special #5: Tagine

Considering the geographical location of the Christmas story, I think there's a lot to be said for middle-eastern inspired eating at this time of year. There's an exoticism to Christmas that often gets overlooked in the rush to eat chocolate.

Sorry about the stupid photograph. There is something really wrong with my camera (I've had this confirmed by a photographer, it's not just me being a dick) and the only picture I managed to get of the tagine made it look so utterly revolting, when it was so absolutely delicious, that I couldn't bear to post the photo.

My husband made this Michel Roux Jnr lamb tagine the other day, the recipe was sourced from The Times Weekend and it was spectacular. Really, really great and I recommend it highly. And, as almost no swearing was coming from the kitchen, I think it was pretty easy, too.

The niceness of this depends largely on what kind of meat you get, because a lot of the richness comes from the fat on the meat. Giles boned a shoulder of lamb, diced the meat and cooked the whole lot, (chucked the bone and diced skin and everything), which definitely added to the richness and general yum of the thing.

You could do this with pre-diced lamb, but I fear it won't quite be fatty enough, so if you can, seek out a boned shoulder or a shoulder and then bone it yourself (not nearly as tricky as de-boning a duck).

Lamb tagine for 4 hungry people or 6 less hungry people

1 boned lamb shoulder - the total weight is about 800g - 1kg
veg oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
3 small onions, chopped
2tsp turmeric
2tsp crushed coriander seeds
2tsp cumin seeds (or ground cumin)
The zest and juice of one lemon
(NB the original recipe said one whole lemon cut into wedges, but after much debate and soul-searching Giles decided that this made the whole thing too bitter, what with the inclusion of the pith, so has adjusted the instruction accordingly.)
1 tbsp honey - whatever you've got
300ml chicken/veg stock
50 whole blanched almonds or pine nuts, toasted

1 Preheat oven to 140C and cut lamb into chunks. Heat the veg oil in a large casserole and brown the lamb. Add garlic, onion and spices and cook over a medium heat for 15 min.

2 Add the lemon, honey and stock and bring to a simmer. Cover with a lid and cook for 1hr 15 min. I know it doesn't seem like very long for a stew and we were both sceptical, but it works. Once it's out you will probably need to add a lot of salt - probably two or three really big pinches - but the precise amount is, as always, up to you.

3 Sprinkle over toasted nuts before serving.

We had this with couscous. I am a huge fan of "jewelled couscous", as it's starting to be referred to, which is couscous with a bit of chopped mint, salt and pomegranate seeds stirred in.


  1. I haven't been organised enough this year to source my usual advent candle so your Christmas countdown blogs are a great a big thank you from me.

    Looking forward to making your rum and coconut cake at the weekend.

  2. Love a good tagine...there's some silly book coming out next year that does a whole roast shoulder but with taginey spices...ras-el-hanout and the like. Works well.

  3. Hi Esther, love the recipe. We always have something exotic with lamb between Christmas and New Year.

    I'm wondering if the whole lemon part is a Western substitute for dried lime. It's called limu omani and features in Middle Eastern cooking. It has a unique sharp and deep flavour and they can be bought in International food shops. I don't know if it would definitely be authentic in this, but it would taste really good :)

  4. This recipe looks great definitely going to give it a try. Have you ever had Tunisian Tagine, I think it's really quite a different thing, my sister makes it, more like a frittata.

  5. Hello,
    I've been reading your blog for a while and just wanted to say I love the way you write!

    I'm having people over for dinner tomorrow and am making a vegetable tagine with couscous, and I was wondering if you had any ideas about side dishes? I wanted to keep the Moroccanish theme with some sort of salad but was feeling a bit uninspired...


  6. ANOTHER vegetarian?! Why are there all these vegetarians following me about...

    I vote for a feta and fennel salad with pomegranate seeds - exotic, seasonal...

    - fennel
    - pomegranate seeds
    - olive oil
    - sumac (if you can get hold of it)
    - lemon juice
    - tarragon leaves
    - flat-leaved parsley
    - feta cheese
    (exact amounts depend on how many you've got coming)

    1 Top and tail fennel and slice as thinly as you can. Crumble the feta.

    2 Mix in a bowl the olive oil, sumac, lemon juice, herbs, salt and pepper. Add the fennel and toss well. Allow for the saltiness of the feta.

    3 Layer the fennel, feta and pomegranate seeds in a salady-arrangement; garnish with some fennel leaves and sprinkle over some extra sumac if you fancy it.

    From Ottolenghi: The Cookbook, which I recommend highly and not just to vegetarians.

  7. A welcome change from the ubiquitous turkey..

  8. I've just begun playing around with claypot cooking and have fallen for what it does with meats. It seems to cook more gently and make far more succulent and soft meat morsels ... I don't know how or why, but I'm a convert ... your lamb will make a nice new experiment.

  9. You made me laugh :)

    Thanks for the recipe too.