During lockdown with all its travel restrictions, we have revisited, in our own kitchen, some of the culinary delights of earlier travelling, including the delicious food of North Africa.
And what could be more delicious and exotic than a dish whose history goes back to Haroun al Rashid and whose use was first recorded in the ninth century, “One Thousand and One Nights” …the tagine?
Now if you have a tagine cooking pot at the back of your kitchen cupboard, perhaps a souvenir of a holiday visit to a Moroccan or Tunisian soukh, all well and good. If not, no problem. An ordinary casserole dish will do as well.
You will need 600 to 800gm. of diced lamb, goat, mutton or beef from our Top Meadow Farm butchers. If you are buying goat or mutton on the bone, allow extra. In a pan clarify a large sliced onion and a de-seeded red or green pepper in some olive oil. Remove to your casserole dish or tagine. Lightly flour the diced meat and sear gently in the olive oil. Add two cloves of chopped garlic, a little chopped or ground ginger, cumin, pepper and a good pinch of turmeric and of cinnamon. Pour into the tagine with 150gm soft dried apricots or prunes and 60gm sultanas and a couple of sliced carrots. Top up with meat stock. Some chefs recommend adding honey to the casserole, but I find the dried fruit on its own makes the dish sweet enough. Cook in a slow oven for at least two hours or until the meat is tender. Check seasoning. Open the tagine at table to release the delicious flavours and aromas of North Africa and serve with a little roughly chopped parsley and couscous or rice, and a green salad.
This is a very versatile dish. As well as changing the meat you can make it spicier by adding harissa, or you can add chunks of butternut squash or courgette late in the cooking. However you make this dish, when you open the tagine, the wafted exotic aromas of this dish will transport you to North Africa and you can imagine a blood red sun setting over the mountains behind Marrakesh.