Beef Tagine with Prunes

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Appears in

Food of the Sun: A Fresh Look at Mediterranean Cooking

Food of the Sun

By Alastair Little and Richard Whittington

Published 1995

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Wine is absent from the traditional cooking of countries where religious observance forbids its consumption. Vinegars have, however, been used since ancient times and make an excellent substitute in dishes like these. Their use must be judicious, for vinegar behaves differently from wine in that its impact intensifies during cooking, so it can only be added in small quantities. Balsamic vinegar is suggested here because its aromatic and sweet properties work particularly well with the prunes, but any good wine vinegar will do.


  • 450 g/1 lb prunes
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1.35 kg/3 lb boneless shin of beef
  • 450 g /1 lb onions
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • large handful of flat-leaf parsley
  • 20 spring onions
  • 85 g/3 oz flour
  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp allspice
  • 2 tsp chilli powder
  • 2 tbsp balsamic or white wine vinegar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1.75 litres/3 pt beef or chicken stock or water
  • 300 ml/½ pt yogurt, stabilized
  • salt and pepper



Pour boiling water over the prunes and leave for 2 hours or preferably overnight. Stone the soaked prunes and reserve.

Toast the coriander seeds, grind to a powder and reserve.

Cut the beef shin into postcard-sized slices about 2.5 cm/1 in thick.

Peel and slice the onions and celery. Peel, smash and chop the garlic. Destalk and chop the parsley. Trim the spring onions.


Dredge the pieces of beef in the flour seasoned with 1 teaspoon of salt and ½ teaspoon of pepper. Seal in 3 tablespoons of the oil in a frying pan. Transfer to a tagine or casserole.

Add the onions and garlic to the frying pan with a little more oil. Saute until translucent. Add the chopped garlic and fry for a minute, stirring, then add the ground coriander, allspice and chilli powder. Cook for 2 minutes, then stir in the vinegar and bubble gently for a minute or so.

Add the contents of the pan to the meat, together with the prunes and bay leaves. Season with salt and pepper. Pour over the stock and bring to the boil. Lower to a bare simmer and cover.

Cook gently on the hob for 1½ hours, stirring from time to time and adding a little water if it starts to dry out. Taste to see if the meat is done. If not, continue cooking until it is tender, but do not take it too far: overcooking will dry and flake the meat and cause it to fall apart.

When done, the tagine can be left to cool and kept to reheat gently the next day. This actually improves the flavour.

After warming through, and about 5 minutes before serving, remove the bay leaves and stir in 2 tablespoons of the chopped parsley. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary.

Warm the yogurt gently in a small pan and wilt the spring onions briefly in a dry pan.


At the last minute, pour over the warmed yogurt and garnish with the wilted spring onions and remaining parsley. Serve with plain boiled rice, couscous or Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes

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