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tagine of lamb with prunes and sautéd almonds

This recipe was cooked for us by a lovely friend, Diana Barton.  It took her a long time, but the result was sensational.

nb: Start a day in advance - the meat must be marinated overnight

this dish can be prepared in advance, brought to a simmer and put into a low oven for 2 hours before serving.

4 lbs (1.8kg) shoulder of lamb, cubed (get your butcher to do this for you!).  Save bone and trimmings for stock.
2-3 tbsps olive oil

for the 'dry' Moroccan marinade:
2 large Spanish onions, peeled and coarsely grated
2 large cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
4 tbsps olive oil
½ rounded teasp coarse sea salt
½ rounded teasp each of: paprika, powdered cumin and ground ginger
.4g saffron stamens, crushed
coarsely-ground black pepper

for the honey tomato sauce:
2 tbsp runny honey
2 400g tins chopped tomatoes
2ozs (50g) butter
1-2 pinches crushed dried chillies

for the prunes:
250g unpitted prunes
2 tbsps runny honey
1 strip orange zest about 1" x 4"
2 short cinnamon sticks

to garnish:
4ozs/110g blanched whole almonds, sautéed in half an ounce/10g butter until golden brown, and seasoned with salt to taste
6 small hard-boiled eggs, sliced lengthways
1 15g pack fresh coriander, roughly chopped

to serve:
couscous or rice

you will need a large tagine with a base measurement of 12", or a heavy-bottomed, lidded, flameproof casserole with a capacity of 7 pints (4 litres).


to cut the lamb into cubes (if you couldn't persuade the butcher to do it for you), use a sharp knife or cleaver to make horizontal incisions 1.5" apart across the shoulder, making sure your knife goes down to the bone.  Then cut across each meat segment in turn to mark off even-sized cubes.  Now, using a small sharp knife, prise the meat away from the bone, discarding any pieces that are fat only.  Don't bother to remove excess fat from the other pieces, as the fat is an intrinsic part of this recipe.  You can remove any extra fat from the surface of the finished sauce before it is served.

combine the cubed lamb with the 'dry' marinade ingredients in the tagine or casserole.  Mix well, rubbing marinade into each piece of meat with your fingers.  Replace lid and leave to marinate in fridge overnight.

to make the honey tomato sauce, place all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring occasionally.  Simmer, uncovered, for ten mins, then reserve.

when you are ready to cook, preheat oven to 140°C/275°F or gas Mark 1. Spoon the meat and marinade in the tagine or casserole onto a plate.  Place a large frying pan over a high heat, add 1 tbsp olive oil, and when it is very hot but not smoking, brown the meat with the marinade in small batches, stirring constantly until the meat is well browned.  Use more oil when necessary.

return all meat to tagine. Spoon the honey tomato sauce over it and mix well.  Bring to the boil, replace the lid, and cook in the oven for 1hr 45m.

meanwhile, prepare the prunes.  Place them in a bowl, cover with boiling water and allow to infuse for 10 mins.  Drain, discarding the water.

when the tagine has cooked, remove it from the oven and transfer nine heaped tablespoons of the sauce from the tagine to a medium-sized saucepan.  Return the tagine to the oven for 15 mins.  Place a piece of kitchen towel on top of the sauce to soak up surplus fat.  Add the honey,
orange zest, cinnamon sticks and drained prunes to the sauce and simmer uncovered for 15 mins, or until the prunes are soft and swollen.  If necessary, add a little hot water.

take the tagine out of the oven, remove lid and skim off any excess fat from the surface using kitchen towel (as before).  Remove cinnamon and orange zest from pan and reserve to use as garnish.  Add the prunes and their sauce to the tagine and correct seasoning, adding salt, spices or chillies as desired.

reheat the tagine when you are ready to serve it, and add the garnishes.  If you are using a tagine, sprinkle over the sautéed salted almonds and place the halved hard-boiled eggs on top.  Then scatter the chopped coriander and reserved cinnamon sticks and orange zest over the dish.  If you have used a casserole, transfer lamb, prunes and sauce to a serving dish and garnish as above - and don't forget to warn your guests about the stones in the prunes!


2 comments to this

niles said on 19 Apr 2006 at 01:57:29:

Has something gone adrift with the tags for this one? :)

ramtops said on 19 Apr 2006 at 08:33:50:

it does rather look like it ... why not edit them yourself?!

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posted by sasha on 26 Apr 06 - 10876 views

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