September 22, 2006
I have a memory of tagine. It’s from Paris. I was a tagine virgin. I had just climbed the ramparts of Notre Dame cathedral. I walked among the weird-headed gargoyles – at the ready to spit rain down on the poor mortals on the ground.
Suddenly the bells clanged to life, and I found myself walking with a limp, all hunched over. It was glorious.
And when my imagination and my body came back to the ground, I was hungry.
I found a restaurant on the Left Bank (well it was left from where I was standing) – a little North African place and thought I’d treat myself to a little tagine. When you’re sitting in a restaurant on your own, with no one to eavesdrop on, you look around with all your senses – and I wanted time to stand still for just a moment while I let it sink in that I was in Paris, sipping wine, and waiting for my tagine to head out of the kitchen.
It was one of my best meals there - I found Paris difficult to eat in on a backpacker's budget. My absolutely favourite meal, was a loaf of rustic bread, some raw cheese and a tomato that I picked up on my way to the Louvre and ate on the grass before going in to see Napoleon's tomb.
Anyway, tagine is one of those dishes that grabs your nose and won’t let go…and it ain’t as difficult as it may look – believe me, I’d know.
A couple of weeks ago I was leafing through a Canadian magazine that had a recipe for tagine. And it was one of those rare moments I had almost everything at hand or in the cupboard. I had just bought a piece of fresh lamb from our favourite place: Fresh from the Farm – and now I knew what I had to do with it.
Here’s a strong recipe from what I thought would be a bland source…I was wrong. It will zap your home with beautiful, exotic scents - it actually drew our dear landlady Diana, an adventurous eater herself, downstairs to see what was up in the stewpot. (She's off in Turkey right now having her own food adventures which she promised to remember for me.)
Moroccan Lamb Tagine with Apricots and Golden Raisins
Adapted from Canadian Living, September 2006 issue:
3 lb boneless lamb shoulder
2tsp ground cumin
1 ½ tsp cinnamon
1 tsp each salt and ground ginger
½ tsp each turmeric and pepper (I overdid it on the turmeric, still worked out)
2 cups chicken stock (if you have any homemade…oh my…what a difference)
1 tsp saffron threads
¼ cup slivered almonds
3 tbsp vegetable oil
2 onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 carrots, sliced diagonally (I would steam these a little ahead, I was standing around waiting for them to cook through)
1 cup sliced dried apricots
½ cup golden raisins (I only had Thomson raisins, which worked fine)
1 tbsp liquid honey
1 tbsp fresh mint (actually does make a difference even though it’s a garnish)
Trim the fat from the lamb and cut into 1 ¼” cubes. Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine cumin, cinnamon, salt, ginger, turmeric and pepper; remove 1tsp and set aside. Add lamb to bowl and toss. Set aside.
In sauce pan, heat stock until hot; add saffron and let stand for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile in large shallow Dutch oven, toast almonds over medium heat until golden. Remove and set aside.
Add 1 tsp of oil to the pan, heat over medium high heat and brown the lamb in batches, adding more oil as necessary. (I found this went very quickly – so keep an eye on it). Transfer to a plate.
Add remaining oil to the pan; fry onions, garlic and reserved spice mixture over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until garlic is golden, about 5 minutes. Return lamb and any juices to pan. Add stock mixture and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until lamb is tender, about 1 hour.
Add carrots, apricots, raisins and honey; cover and simmer, until carrots are tender about 30 mins. (I would steam the carrots a bit to get them started)
Uncover and boil over medium heat until thickened to consistency of gravy, about 5 mins.
The recipe says this can be made ahead – just let it cool for 30 mins. Then put in an airtight container and refrigerate. Keep for no more than two days.
Then sprinkle with almonds and mint. And enjoy…I served this with rice…and not a drop was left - and I wanted to know if it tasted better the next day...I have a feeling it would. Bon Appetit.