After all the rich meals and constant onslaught of sweets, it seemed fitting to simplify our first post-Christmas dinner by doing an easy tagine simmer of lean lamb, ginger, garlic, saffron, cinnamon and fruits with chopped onions. The new tagine got put to good use and two hours later, a drizzle of honey gave the juices a soft sweetness.
Over plain couscous, this was a nice change from all the traditional Christmas knosh ... we added a salad on the side for a cool crisp break from the warm saucy tagine.
This recipe is considered a classic of tagine cooking, which is an easy and gentle way of cooking meats and vegetables. This particular tagine pot works well for gentle simmering, as it is a terra cotta number. These terra cotta pots need to be used at low temperatures with a heat diffusing pad between them and the burners/gas flame. This saves the pot from too drastic a temperature that might crack the pot. Tagines must always be heated gently with oil and some ingredients in the pan right from the beginning of the heat process.
This dish does just that. The onions, ginger, garlic, saffron, and meat are placed in tagine with a small amount of oil. Cinnamon is sprinkled over all with a bit of salt and pepper. The pan is brought up to a soft sizzle over medium low heat. Then, the meat is barely covered with water. The cover goes on and the tagine is left to gently bubble for two hours, slow cooking the lamb bits and softening the aromatics so that they flavour the juices.
When the lamb is soft and the juices are brown, the soaked fruit is added with some honey, the cover goes back on and the sauce thickens up, as the fruits and honey release sweet juices that become smooth and a bit sticky. That bit of sauce provides just enough richness to soak into a bed of buttered couscous.
The bit that was leftover from last night's dinner made excellent lunch today ... and I got to it first! Poor SB had to content himself with a PBJ for his lunch. I know. My bad.
Lamb Tagine with Apricots, Prunes, and Honey
Serves 2 with leftovers
1 lb. lamb shoulder, trimmed and cut into bite-sized cubes
2 tbsp. olive oil
½ oz. ginger root, peeled and cut into small bits
a large pinch saffron threads
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 medium onion, small dice
2 large cloves garlic, minced
½ c. plump prunes
½ c. dried apricots
2 generous tbsp. honey
Salt and black pepper
For serving: buttered couscous and green salad
Making the Dish:
- Place a heat diffuser pad on the large burner of the stove. Place the tagine on the pad.
- Drizzle the oil into the tagine, layer in the onions, meat, ginger, and garlic.
- Sprinkle the saffron and cinnamon over all.
- Turn the heat on a low setting and begin to heat the tagine. When you begin to hear the onions sizzle, pour just enough warm water into the tagine to barely cover the meat.
- Cover the tagine and let it come to a soft simmer. Leave the dish to simmer for two hours.
- While the meat cooks, combine the apricots and prunes in a small bowl and cover with warm water. Soak for one hour, then drain.
- When the meat has been simmering for 1 ½ hours, add the fruit and the honey and salt and black pepper. Stir very gently, return the cover and let the tagine continue to simmer for the last half hour.
- While the sauce simmers and thickens a bit, make a bowl of buttered couscous and a cool green salad.
- Serve the lamb right from the tagine over top a mound of hot couscous.
Note: If the liquids in the simmering meat dissipate too much, top with more water. They shouldn’t, if your tagine has a snug cover, but check the tagine after an hour to see where the water level is at that point and act accordingly.