Lamb Tagine with Apricots

Tagines are the meat dishes which sit closest to the heart of Morocco, rich and aromatic without being fancy or contrived. It is also the name for the earthenware casseroles with conical lids like witches’ hats in which the meat is simmered. Tagines are everyday food in the same sense as Lancashire hot-pot, or a shin of beef stew. Tagines are most often of lamb, but they can just as easily be made with beef. Fruit is not a constant, but its inclusion is typical.

Ingredients

  • 225 g/ 8 oz dried apricots
  • 1.25 kg/ lb lamb neck fillet
  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 450 g/ 1 lb onion, sliced into rings
  • 5-cm / 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and cut into julienne strips
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes (more if you like it hot)
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 4 tsp cumin
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 lime or bay leaves
  • 1.75 litres/ 3 pints chicken or lamb stock
  • couscous or rice, to serve handful of flat parsley leaves, to garnish

Method

Pour boiling water over the dried apricots and leave to soak for 2 hours or overnight.

Preheat a dry pan until very hot. Butterfly the lamb neck fillet and cut it into rectangles about the size of a postcard. Brush with some of the oil, season with salt and pepper and sear on both sides. Reserve.

Heat the remaining olive oil in a heavy-based casserole and fry the onion until translucent. Add the ginger, chilli flakes, paprika and cumin, fry for 2 minutes, then add the lamb and drained apricots. Put in the cinnamon stick and lime or bay leaves. Season with salt and pepper. Pour over the stock and bring to the boil. Lower the heat to a bare simmer, cover with a lid and cook for 1 hour.

Remove the lid and check to see that the lamb is tender. Remove the cinnamon stick and lime leaves and discard. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve in Warmed soup plates or in large bowls with a mound of couscous or rice and parsley leaves scattered over.

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