Tagine part IV

This is a lovely winter dish, decorated with jewel-like ruby-red pomegranate seeds. Whole, meaty chestnuts are often used in Arab-influenced culinary cultures as a substitute for potatoes. You can use freshly roasted nuts or ready-peeled, vacuum-packed or frozen chestnuts.

  • 2 tablespoons ghee, or 1 tablespoon olive oil plus a knob of butter
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • Thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped or shredded
  • a pinch of saffron threads
  • 1–2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 kg lean lamb, from the shoulder or leg, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 250 g peeled chestnuts
  • 1–2 tablespoons dark, runny honey
  • seeds of 1 pomegranate, pith removed
  • leaves from a small bunch of fresh mint, chopped
  • leaves from a small bunch of fresh coriander, chopped
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • crusty bread or Plain, Buttery Couscous”

Serves 4

“Heat the ghee in a tagine or heavy-based casserole. Stir in the onions, garlic and ginger and sauté until they begin to colour.

Add the saffron and cinnamon sticks, and toss in the lamb. Pour in enough water to almost cover the meat and bring it to the boil. Reduce the heat, cover with a lid and simmer gently for about 1 hour.
Add the chestnuts and stir in the honey. Cover with the lid again and cook gently for a further 30 minutes, until the meat is very tender.

Season to taste with salt and plenty of black pepper and then toss in some of the pomegranate seeds, mint and coriander. Sprinkle the remaining pomegranate seeds and herbs over the lamb, and serve with crusty bread or Plain, Buttery Couscous”

“tfaia tagine with onions, browned almonds and eggs

Originally from Andalusia, tfaia tagines are popular in northern Morocco, particularly in Tangier. Their trademark is a pungent, nutty flavour that emanates from matured, clarified butter called smen which is an acquired taste for some people. The recipe works just as well with ghee, which is ordinary clarified butter.

  • 1–2 tablespoons ghee or smen (see page 11)
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon saffron threads, ground with a pinch of salt
  • 1 kg lamb cutlets
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 175 g black Kalamata olives, stoned
  • 2 preserved lemons (see page 11), cut into quarters
  • leaves from a small bunch of fresh coriander, chopped
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 eggs
  • ½ teaspoon ground saffron, or a pinch of saffron threads
  • ½ tablespoon ghee or butter
  • 2 tablespoons blanched almonds
  • crusty bread

Serves 4

“Melt the ghee in a tagine or heavy-based casserole. Stir in the garlic, ginger, ground coriander and saffron, and roll the lamb cutlets in the mixture. Sprinkle the onions over the cutlets and pour in just enough water to cover the meat. Bring the water to the boil, reduce the heat, cover with a lid and cook gently for about 1½ hours.

Add the olives and lemons and cook, uncovered, for about another 20 minutes to reduce the sauce. Season well with plenty of salt and black pepper and toss in the chopped coriander.
Meanwhile, boil the eggs in their shells for about 4 minutes, so that the yolk is just firm, and shell them. Dissolve the saffron in 2 tablespoons warm water and roll the eggs in the yellow liquid to colour them. Cut the eggs in half lengthways.
In a frying pan, melt the ghee and stir in the almonds until golden brown. Sprinkle the toasted almonds over the tagine and arrange the eggs around the edge. Serve immediately with crusty bread.

Summer tagine of lamb, courgettes, peppers and mint

Summer tagines using seasonal vegetables are often quite light and colorful. Other vegetables that might be added to this tagine include tomatoes, aubergines and peas. This dish is particularly good served with wedges of lemon to squeeze over it, or with finely shredded preserved lemon sprinkled over the top.

  • 3–4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon dried mint
  • thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped or grated
  • 750 g lean lamb, from the shoulder or leg, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 small courgettes, sliced thickly on the diagonal
  • 1 red or yellow pepper, deseeded and cut into thick strips
  • 4 tomatoes, skinned, deseeded and cut into chunks
  • leaves from a small bunch of fresh flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
  • leaves from a small bunch of fresh mint, roughly chopped
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lemon, cut into quarters, to serve

Serves 4–6

“Heat the olive oil in a tagine or heavy-based casserole. Stir in the onion, garlic, cumin and coriander seeds, dried mint and ginger. Once the onions begin to soften, toss in the meat and pour in enough water to just cover it. Bring the water to the boil, reduce the heat, cover with a lid and cook gently for about 1½ hours.

Season the cooking juices with salt and pepper. Add the courgettes, pepper and tomatoes, tucking them around the meat (add a little more water if necessary). Cover with a lid again and cook for about 15 minutes, until the courgettes and pepper are cooked but retain a bite.

Toss in some of the chopped parsley and mint, sprinkle the rest over the top and serve immediately with lemon wedges on the side to squeeze over the dish.”

Lamb k’dra with sweet potatoes and okra

This is a Berber dish which is often prepared with large cuts of meat, such as shanks, knuckle or sheeps’ heads, which are removed at the end of the cooking and arranged around a mound of couscous. The vegetables are arranged on top and the cooking broth is served separately to spoon over the dish.

  • 6–8 lamb shanks, trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 6 onions, halved lengthways and sliced crossways
  • a pinch of saffron threads
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled, halved lengthways and thickly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons ghee, smen or butter
  • 250 g fresh okra
  • freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon sea salt
  • crusty bread or Plain, Buttery Couscous”

Serves 6–8

Put the lamb in a tagine or large heavy-based casserole with half of the onions, saffron, cinnamon sticks and black pepper. Pour in enough water to cover the meat and bring it to the boil. Reduce the heat, cover with a lid and simmer gently for about 1½ hours (top up with water if necessary).

Add the sweet potatoes, the ghee and the rest of the onions. Simmer for a further 20–25 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. Meanwhile, toss the okra in the lemon juice, leave for 10 minutes, then drain. Add the okra to the casserole and simmer for a further 5–10 minutes, until the okra is cooked through but still retains a crunch.

Season to taste with salt and serve with crusty bread or Plain, Buttery Couscous.