The constant rain and cooler temperatures this summer have made me crave warm sunshine food; the kind of food that reminds you of being somewhere else entirely. Spices like warming cinnamon, aromatic cumin and pungent turmeric do wonders to lift the spirits and through their flavours and smells, evoke the vibe of the Souk markets of Morocco.
In the absence of physically being somewhere warm and exotic, I decided the next best thing was to whip up a warming batch of Tagine at home. The word 'Tagine' refers to the earthenware conical dishes that are used to cook these dishes, rather than the food itself. In the absence of a Tagine dish and an open fire, a large cooking pot and a normal domestic stove does the job beautifully. The traditional meat and fruit/nut combinations of Tagine dishes actually stem from Persia, which fills me with patriotic pride, knowing that our culinary influence reaches far and wide. So here is my delicious, one-pot recipe for my own Tagine recipe;
Spiced Lamb Tagine with Preserved Lemons & Butternut Squash (Serves 4)
600g of lamb neck fillets, sliced into inch thick pieces
1/2 Jar of 'Belazu' Preserved lemons (from most supermarkets)
1 very onion (or 2 small), halved & cut into 6 chunks
The cloves from a whole bulb of garlic, crushed but left whole
500g of peeled butternut squash cut into inch thick chunks or small wedges
2 generous handfuls of pitted prunes
4 heaped teaspoons of cumin powder
3 teaspoons of cinammon powder
3 heaped teaspoons of turmeric powder
4 bay leaves
1 Knorr beef jelly stock
Maldon sea salt
In a large cooking pot (I use Le Creuset heavy based pots) preheated over a medium heat (low-medium if using gas) add your onions and brown a little, then add a good glug of all before adding the lamb into the pan. Brown the lamb a little, before adding the garlic, bay leaves, turmeric, cinnamon and cumin and a stirring well. Add the Knorr beef stock, some extra Maldon sea salt and cover the meat generously with cold water about 1 inch over the level of ingredients in the pot. Then add your prunes, preserved lemons and butternut squash and turn the heat down to low and cook for about 2.5 hours, giving it a stir every so often to make sure it doesn't stick. If the mixture looks like it is drying out, just add a little more cold water.
Once cooking time has passed, remove from heat and allow to meld for about 20 minutes before serving with a steaming hot pile of cous cous or whatever you like! It's absolutely mouthwatering!