Beef Tagine with Prunes

Beef Tagine

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.

Summary

Makes: 6 portions
Preparation: 20 mins
Cooking: 2 hours

Ingredients

1kg
40g
3tbsp
1tbsp
3tbsp
2tsp
1tsp
1tsp
½tsp
1tsp
500g
2tbsp
.
.
.
1
Stewing beef cut into good-size chunks
Butter (pus good splash of olive oil)
Coriander leaves (roughly chopped)
Mint leaves (roughly chopped)
Minced onion
Ground cinnamon
Ground ginger
Ground coriander
Black pepper
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

Method

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.

Beef and Guinness Stew

Beef and Guinness Stew

Classic Irish dish for those winter evenings. Sort of an Irish version of the French daube, with our national tipple replacing the red wine. There’s nothing at all complicated about this stew and it tastes so good. I urge you to give it a try. There’s a slight twist in this recipe, which I based on one in Darina Allen’s Simply Delicious 2 book. A spoon of mustard and a small strip of orange peel add complexity and aroma to the dish. You don’t have to use Guinness: any stout will do. The only change you need to make is to adjust the amount of sugar: Murphy is a little sweeter and will need less. In fact, Guiness is probably the most bitter of the common stouts, so the amount of sugar in the recipe is an upper limit. I suggest using a heavy flameproof casserole such as Le Creuset and finishing the stew in a low oven, but if you don’t have one, you can use a frying pan and a simple ovenproof dish. Failing this you can make the whole dish on top of the stove in a big pot, finishing over a very low heat. If possible, don’t use a teflon pan for sealing the meat, as the little bits that stick to the bottom of the pan add great depth to the overall flavour. This dish can be reheated the next day: in fact, many would say the flavour improves overnight.

Summary

Makes: 4 very good portions
Preparation: 30mins
Cooking: 2 hours

Ingredients

1kg
~750ml
3
4
2 r. tbsp
2 tsp
2 r. tsp
Stewing beef (not absolutely lean!)
Guinness or other stout
Onions
Medium carrots
Tomato paste
Mustard powder (or 2 tsp (rounded) made-up mustard)
Sugar
Salt
Pepper
Small strip orange peel (max 1cm long if waxed)
Bouquet garni (bay, thyme, parsley stalks)
Olive oil (even better ghee or clarified butter)
Flour
Parsley 

25cm flameproof casserole or similar

Note

Ideally you should use peel from an unwaxed orange. In such cases you can use a good amount: 2 or 3cm is no problem. However, if you can only get waxed oranges, then you need much less, at most 1cm. Even then, scrub the surface of the orange under boiling water first. Otherwise the flavour will totally dominate the dish.

Method

Cut the meat into nice-sized chunks (about 2cm), trimming any obvious fat. Slice the onions thinly. Season the meat with salt and pepper and dredge in the flour, shaking off any excess.

Put the casserole over a medium to high heat. Add oil to cover the bottom. When hot, add enough meat to form one layer. Don’t overcrowd the pot: it’s better to do several batches. Leave the meat to brown on all sides. Try to resist the temptation to continually push to meat around: we want it to brown nicely. Transfer to a dish and repeat until all the meat is sealed. You should have some nice golden brown bits of meat and flour stuck to the bottom by now. That’s OK as it will add flavour later. Next, drop the heat to low and add the onions and a little more oil. Fry until they start to colour, stirring regularly to make sure they don’t burn.

When the onions are ready, bring up the heat and add enough of the Guinness to deglaze the pot, making sure you free all the caramelised bits. Add about 750ml of the Guinness and let it bubble uncovered for a minute or two to burn off the alcohol. Then stir in the tomato paste, mustard and sugar. Return the meat and any juices to the pot. Tuck in the bouquet garni and the orange peel. You may need to add a litte more Guinness to just cover the meat.  Stir everything together and adjust the seasoning. When the pot comes back to the boil, cover and place in a prewarmed oven set to 150°C.

After about 1 hour, slice the peeled carrots to around 5mm and stir into the pot. Another hour or so later, the meat should be beautifully tender, the carrots cooked and the stew lovely and thick. Remove the bouquet garni and the orange peel. Transfer to a warmed serving bowl and sprinke with some chopped parsely. Serve accompanied by some plain boiled potatoes or good bread. Enjoy!