This is a very rich and filling dish. When friends come round for dinner, I simply serve it with a bowl of couscous, followed by fruit. Orange slices dusted with ground ginger and ground cardamom are especially good.
Season the beef with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a high heat. Reduce the heat to medium, add the beef and fry for 3–5 minutes until browned on all sides, working in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan and adding extra oil, if necessary. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the beef to the slow cooker, then add the aubergine, dates and preserved lemons.
Pour off any excess fat from the pan, leaving about 1 tablespoon. Add the fennel and fry, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and fry for a further 1–3 minutes until the fennel is softened. Add the bay leaves, fennel seeds, cumin, ras el hanout and thyme and fry for 30–60 seconds until fragrant.
Add the tomato purée and stock and season lightly with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, stirring, then pour the mixture into the cooker and stir well.
Cover the cooker with the lid and cook on LOW for 7 hours until the beef is tender. Remove and discard the bay leaves, then stir well and add a little more salt and pepper, if you like. Sprinkle with coriander and pomegranate seeds, if you like, and serve with couscous.
© 2012 All rights reserved. Published by Watkins.