Suddenly we have winter – 2 inches of snow and bitter cold – it just dropped on us on yesterday – they are talking about Russian winter coming our way. And cold weather is perfect for flavorful and aromatic food.
Normally I’m not a fan of making dinner that takes too long time – but I just had to try to see if I was able to re-create one of the best tagines I enjoyed during my Christmas in Marrakesh: the city of flavour, tastes and colours. Morrocan cooking is a little sweet and that is just up my alley. If you don’t like sweet food just leave out the honey or cut down on it.
First I had to create a spice mix called: Rah el hanout – a spice mix that really smells like Christmas. It’s a MUST in all North African cooking. Good mixtures will contain more than 20 different spices, including dried peppers, cardamom, nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, cloves, fennel, rose buds and lavender, but ras-el-hanout can contain up to 100 spices.
Mine has only 13 ingredients and it works wonders and I mix so I have for more than one use. I’m sure there is saffron in the mixture too, but it works fine without it. Can be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 month. You can use it for any cooking – vegetables, meat, chicken and couscous. The smell and taste of this spice mix are magical and it’s MINE!!!!.
Wivi’s Rah el hanout, 200 ml (0,84 cup)
6 tsp coriander seeds
3 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
5 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground cardamon
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground turmeric
1.5 tsp all spice
1 tsp cayenne
1 tsp ground cloves
2 tsp whole black pepper
1.5 tsp salt
2 tsp ground nutmeg
I just run all the ingredients in my bullet blender until it is finely grounded or you can use mortar.
My friends bought a fresh slaughtered whole lamb last year and I bought a 1/3 of it – so when I tried out this recipe the first time on myself (my images are from that session) I just use some of a few bits and bobs of the “scrape” from the lamb that I had in the freezer. Nothing goes to waste on a good quality lamb.
Next time I will use some of the ribs pieces, but fresh lamb shoulder I would recommend the best for this dish.
Lamb tagine with prunes and almonds, serves 4 – total preparation time 2 hours. (1,5 hours on the stove)
1 kg lamb shoulder, cut into 2.5 cm (1 inch) cubes
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 large onion, coarse chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1,5 tbsp ras el hanout
500ml vegetable or chicken stock
100 gr of blanched whole almonds
2 tbsp runny honey
250 g pitted prunes
bouquet of fresh coriander
- Heat the oil in a pan on high heat, add the lamb and cook until browned.
- Add the onion and the spice mix, coriander bouquet and stock. Bring to boil, cover and let simmer on very low heat for about 1 hour.
- Scald and toast the whole almonds in a dry non-stick pan. Add to the casserole together with the honey and prunes – cook uncovered for a further 30 min.
- Remove the coriander bouquet, season to taste and served with couscous.
To scald the whole almonds is so easy – you just boil them for about 1 min – rinse them under cold water and pop them out their peel. If they are not willing to pop just put them back on the stove.
You can’t go wrong with this dish, it’s so easy to make and your house fills with the most wonderful aroma.
This is a brilliant dish .. and it doesn’t tie you up in the kitchen – I use full grain couscous all the time – that means it needs to be boil as dry pasta for about 12 min and I cook mine in vegetable stock. I also use Lebanese couscous that is a lot bigger – same cooking time.
Going to blow my own trumpet now!!!! …. my tagine tastes much better than the one I had in Marrakesh.
“The one who controls the spice controls the universe.”