Tagines are one of Morocco’s most famous dishes, and this is maybe the most famous tagine of them all. We tend to think of them in those lovely pots with the conical lids. If you believe the blurb, that’s supposed to help the condensation drip back from the sides and not straight back into the pot. However, I’ve read that the Moroccans cook tagines in more normal pots and transfer to the elaborate pots for serving.
Lovely rich flavours and texture combine to give a memorable meal, particularly suited to the colder months. In Ireland, that means we can eat it all year around! It’s a real cinch to make: the very basic preparation is followed by a couple of hours simmering gently on the stove top or in a low oven.
Makes: 6 portions
Preparation: 20 mins
Cooking: 2 hours
|Stewing beef cut into good-size chunks
Butter (pus good splash of olive oil)
Coriander leaves (roughly chopped)
Mint leaves (roughly chopped)
Saffron strands (infused for 20mins in a little hot water)
Ready to eat stoned prunes
Clear runny honey
Salt and black pepper
Toasted almonds and chopped coriander to garnish
Large flameproof casserole dish with lid
Trim any excess fat from the meat. You can use a cheese grater for the onions, or just whizz them. You’ll probably need two medium onions to get the amound needed. Place the casserole pot on a medium-high heat. Add the butter and a splash of oil to stop the butter burning. When the butter is foaming, add the black pepper, cinnamon, ginger and coriander and stir around a bit. Add the onion, coriander and mint leaves and stir well. Leave for 30 seconds or so. Add the meat and stir to make sure it is well-coated with the onions and spices. Add enough cold water to just cover the meat. Stir in the saffron and the infusion liquid. Next, add about two-thirds of the prunes. Season with a little salt. You many need some more water, the ingredients should just be covered. Bring the pot to the boil and then reduce to a really low simmer and place the lid on the pot.
After about one and half hours the meat should be pretty tender and the prunes almost dissolved, which will thicken the dish. You can stir gently to encourage the prunes to break up but be careful that you don’t disturb the meat. At this stage add the honey and the remaining prunes. Season with salt and pepper. You might need more than you think, in order to balance the honey. Replace the lid and leave for another half an hour or so.
When the dish is ready, transfer to a large warmed serving bowl and garnish with toasted almond flakes and some chopped coriander. Enjoy with some cous cous, good white bread or plain boiled potatoes.
The unusual thing about Moroccan and other North African salads is that the ingredients are cooked first, allowed to cool and then assembled into a salad. This probably has to do with climate. However, once the initial reluctance has been overcome, one quickly realises that this preparation method allows more complex flavours to be achieved. The Germans also have quite a few salads based on cooked vegetables such as french beans and of course their fantastic potato salads. This carrot salad is delicious and the lemon juice in the dressing acts as the perfect foil to the sweetness of the carrots.
Makes: 4 good portions
Cooking: 20 mins
|Good quality carrots
Good olive oil
Boil the carrots whole in lightly salted water until tender, which should take about 20 minutes. Try to use nice sweet carrots but if you’re having difficulty finding these, you can add a teaspoon of sugar to the water. When cooked, drain the carrots and leave to cool.
Meanwhile roast the cumin seeds in a dry pan for a couple of minutes over a low heat. You can tell they’re ready by the fragrance and the start of a colour change. Remove from the pan and grind in a mortar and pestle. Peel the garlic and chop very roughly. Add to the cumin with about ½ teaspoon of salt. Pound and grind until a paste is formed. Add the lemon juice, sugar and olive oil and mix.
When the carrots are cool, slice thinly, discarding the tops and tails. Add the dressing and coriander. Toss the mixture and add a litttle salt if needed. Leave to stand for few minutes to let the flavours integrate. You can make the salad ahead of time and store in the fridge but it shoud be served at room temperature.
This Moroccan recipe for cooking lamb shank is quite delicious and practically cooks itself. According to Sam Clark in Casa Moro, this Marrakech speciality is very popular during Ramadan, when it cooks slowly in the hot ashes around the hamman or steam bath, waiting paitently to be devoured once the sun goes down! In addition to tasting great, lamb shanks are also really cheap. Like a lot of the cheaper cuts, they are particularly suited to slow cooking as in this dish, which cooks over six hours.
Note: This also works well with shoulder of lamb cut into a few smaller pieces.
Makes: 4 portions
Cooking: 6 hours
|Lamb shanks on the bone
A little water
Preheat the oven to 200°C.
Place the cumin in a dry pan and heat gently until it releases it aroma, then grind. Remove the flesh from the preserved lemons, chop roughly and wash off excess salt. Peel the onions and chop roughly. Take the skins off the garlic cloves and chop each into two or three pieces. Place the onions, garlic, cumin, coriander and preserved lemon into a food processor and whizz. Add the butter and some salt and pepper. Add just enough of the water to make the mixture into a thick paste.
Place the lamb shanks into a large ovenproof dish or pot. Cover well with the paste. Cut some baking paper to a size a little bigger than the pot. Place this on the lamb and press down firmly to seal the space so that no steam can escape. Seal the pot with foil and if you have a lid place this on top. The whole idea is that the container is well sealed so that the meat can cook in the steam and its own juices.
Place into the oven and after 5 minutes reduce the temperature to 140ºC. Now just wait 5 to 6 hours and let the oven do the work. At this stage the meat will be falling off the bone.
Enjoy with some flat bread or couscous and some Moroccan Carrot Salad