Tagine time again!

It’s nearly time for our annual family holiday; my four cousins and their families (now including grandchildren!) and our family go away each year for a holiday together. We have been all over the country – partly because we like to explore different places, but also because with the number of us we need to have a house which will properly accommodate us!

This year we are going to beautiful Herefordshire, but in previous years we have been to:

  • Derbyshire x 3
  • Kent x 2
  • Cumbria x 2
  • Yorkshire
  • Shropshire x 2
  • Devon
  • Forest of Dean

Now you might think what a mountain of catering and organising… well, we have done it so often in a way we are organised, and we have storage boxes full of all the equipment etc we might need, and for the actual feeding of the gang, each family cooks on a different night. We do plan in advance so we don’t all cook the same thing! On the first night we have sausages and mash or jacket potatoes, and on the last night we have roast hams and leftovers. We always have a roast dinner on Sunday, and there is always a meat pie at some point, usually a curry, often meatballs,  sometimes lasagne… Three or four years ago, our family made a lamb tagine which was voted meal of the week! This year we have been asked to make it again – hurrah! I love lamb in any fashion, but with those gorgeous Moroccan spices it’s just the best!

So here is my recipe for four hungry people:

For the tagine

  • 2 lbs lamb, in pieces, not minced
  • 1 ½ tbsp sweet (not smoked) paprika
  • 1 tbsp fennel seeds
  • stick of cinnamon
  • 1 ½ tbsp. turmeric (make sure it really has flavour, worth spending more on better quality for the taste as well as colour
  • 5 cardamom pods, slightly crushed
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 2 star anise
  • 3 bay leaves (if you really don’t like bay leaves and some people don’t, miss them out!
  • 2 ½ large onions – really finely chopped
  • 1 red chilli – finely chopped (or more if you like a bit of fire)
  • 25 g fresh ginger, peeled and mashed to a paste
  • 1 ½ pints of chicken or lamb stock (add more if you need)
  • Olive oil and salt

For the garnish:

  • 2 north African preserved lemons chopped very small (if you really don’t like the salty sour flavour, use lemon juice and fresh lemon zest, and a sprinkle of salt)
  • 5 soft prunes/figs/apricots – whichever you like or a mixture, finely chopped
  • a little olive oil and lemon juice
  • Toasted flaked almonds
  • Chopped coriander and mint (lots) – or any other herbs you really like, but the mint is very much the traditional flavour
  1. gently fry the onions garlic, ginger and chilli, then add the spices
  2. when they give off their aroma, add the meat and brown, still on quite a gentle heat
  3. add the stock – not necessarily all of it if it seems too much
  4. bring to a simmer then cook in a very slow oven or slow-cooker for 3-4 hours
  5. check occasionally to see it is not getting too dry and add more stock if necessary
  6. try to fish out as many of the whole spices as you can then add half of the garnish (see below)
  7. serve with the rest of the garnish, couscous/ rice, or any grain you like! A green salad is also nice.

The garnish:

  1. Mix the chopped lemons and fruit –  or add the lemon juice, zest and salt to the fruit and mix well
  2. add the mixed herbs and really combine well
  3. take half of this and stir into the tagine ten minutes before serving
  4. add  lemon juice and olive oil  if you want, sprinkle with the almonds,  and serve


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