taste: lamb and apricot tagine with vegetable couscous


tagine and vegetable couscous

Or rather, ‘tagine’ – this was cooked in a Dutch oven on the stovetop as I don’t own a real tagine. The recipe is adapted from Emeril Lagasse’s ‘Moroccan Lamb Tagine with Honey and Apricots,’ and made a pretty straightforward and very well-received dinner party dish for 5 exactly. I guess that’s what Emeril means by ‘serves 4-6.’ Anyway, if like me you’ve been suffering from where-is-spring?!! fever, then this sticky, fragrant, meaty dish will see you through another cold night and might just make you fall in love with winter again. There will come a time when it’s too hot and gross outside to even think about turning on the stove, so let’s make the most of it. Surprisingly, this whole recipe happens on the stovetop rather than in the oven – which certainly makes for easier checking, stirring, and inhaling.

Begin with 2lb lamb shoulder, in big chunks. I took it as it came from the Trade Fair butcher, bone in, fat on and all. And I didn’t take a cleaver to it to cut it into cubes as Emeril said – I am still a bit skittish around chunks of meat, and am happy to let them just do their thing without too much input from me. Plus, it worked.

Put the lamb chunks in a bowl and season with 1 teaspoon turmeric, 1 teaspoon ginger and a generous pinch of salt. Turn so the meat is nicely coated in the fragrant orange powders, and make sure you don’t get any turmeric on your clothes. Your mother will have a devil of a job washing it out.

seasoned lamb chunks


Dice two medium onions and mince three fat garlic cloves. Keep them handy – you’ll need them in a minute.

Heat a glug of oil in your pan du choix (tagine, Dutch oven, heavy-based saucepan) and add the lamb to sear it on all sides. Turn it so it’s evenly browned – it should take two or three minutes. Do this in two batches if your pan is too small to hold all the meat in one layer.

Add the onions to the meat in the pan and cook over a medium-high heat until the onion is starting to brown. Add the garlic, and cook for another minute or so.

Pour in 2 cups chicken stock along with a handful of fresh cilantro (or coriander, for the Brits.) Now, Emeril says here to tie 16 stems of cilantro in a bundle with a cotton string, and add that, but I had no string and was haunted by visions of Bridget Jones and her blue soup. I don’t think it mattered that the cilantro stayed in the dish, as it cooks so long that it basically disintegrates. (If you do have string, and want to make a frou-frou little bundle, no arguments here, although the sub-editor in me notes that Emeril doesn’t tell you when to take the cilantro bundle out. That would never have flown by me at Ideal Home, folks.)

Bring everything to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, lid on, for about an hour. Check it every now and then – there’s not a lot of liquid in there, so  you may need to add a bit more stock or water to prevent the meat sticking.

After an hour, get back in the kitchen. Place one cup dried apricots and half a cup golden raisins in a bowl, and cover them with boiling water. Let them sit for twenty minutes or so. At the end of their soaking time, the meat should be almost done.


apricots, raisins and honey

If you want to gussy up your couscous, now’s the time to chop some vegetables, as the meat putters to the finish line. I used onions, garlic, green pepper and carrot, sauteed gently in oil for ten minutes or so.

Back to the tagine. Check the meat for doneness – it should be tender and slipping off the bone in its eagerness to get onto your fork. Lift the chunks out with a slotted spoon and put them on plate to keep warm. Simmer what little liquid remains in the pan and add the apricots and raisins, one thinly sliced onion, 2 generous tablespoons honey, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cook everything together over a low heat until it is combined into a sweet, treacly sauce, and then return the meat to the pan.

Prepare a packet of couscous and when it’s cooked and fluffy, add it to the pan of sautéed vegetables (if you prepared them earlier) and mix together.

Serve the tagine on a bed of vegetable couscous and top with a dollop of plain yoghurt and a cilantro garnish.


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