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Lamb / Mutton & Apricot Tagine
Although a Moroccan dish, eating meat with fruit and spices, was popular in England during medieval times - being brought but from the Middle East by the Crusaders. Using the Moroccan spice blend Ras el Hanout means you don't have to fiddy around with individual spices.
This is an easy dish to prepare, and can be cooked in any casserole suitable for the top of the hob.
Serve with rice or couscous.
For 4 as a main course:
1 Shoulder of Lamb or Mutton, boned by your butcher - or 2lbs/1.9 kilos cubed Lamb or Mutton
4oz/120g Dried Apricots - soaked in hot water for 30 minutes
3 rounded teaspoons (15ml) Ras el Hanout - try www.gourmetherbs.co.uk (http://www.gourmetherbs.co.uk/) for an excellent version
1 big Onion, peeled & finely-chopped
2 medium cloves Garlic, peeled and chopped
2 oz/60g Butter, plus 1 tablespoon Vegetable or Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon (15ml) Tomato Purée
a few good sprigs of Fresh Parsley
a few good sprigs of Fresh Coriander
Salt to taste (there should already be sufficient pepper in the Ras el Hanout)
2 rounded teaspoons (10ml) Cornflour - dissolved in a little cold water
To Serve: freshly-chopped parsley & coriander + some Flat Bread.
1. Cut the meat into largish-bite-sized-pieces, if not already done so by your butcher - cutting off and discarding any excess fat (as shoulder can be fatty, but has excellent flavour).
2. Melt half the butter over a low heat, in a heavy frying pan. Add the chopped onions and 'sweat' them slowly until they are soft and translucent (perhaps about 5 minutes), then add the garlic and Ras el Hanout and cook gently for a further 2 minutes.
3. Transfer the onions to a large saucepan, casserole or tagine - which can take direct heat from the top of the hob.
4. Melt the remaining butter with the oil in the frying pan, this time of a medium heat.
5. When it starts to sizzle, add the meat cubes and seal them on all sides, by turning them over constantly with a wooden spoon.
6. Add the meat to your casserole-type cooking utensil, and mix it well in with the spiced onion mixture.
7. Tie the parsley & coriander together with a piece of clean string, or tie the up in muslin in the form of a bouquet garni.
8. Add enough water to barely cover the meat, then add the tomato purée plus about ½ teaspoon salt and mix this well in.
9. Push the herbs down into the centre of the mixture.
10. Bring the mix to the boil, then simmer very gently for 1 hour for lamb, 1½ hours for mutton - before adding the drained apricots. Add the dissolved cornflour, if you'd like a thicker sauce - a question of choice - rice might like to absorb a thin sauce
11. Mix these well in, then cook for a further 30 minutes, or until the meat is tender (mutton might take a little longer, but gives extra flavour, so is worth the trouble).
12. Check the dish for salt and pepper seasoning, and remove what's left of the fresh herbs - making sure this includes any string.
Serve, perhaps scattered with a little extra fresh parsley & coriander, a bowl of couscous and some flat bread.