Beef & Aubergine Tagine

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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.

Preparation Time: 25 minutes, plus making the stock (optional)
Cooking Time: 7 hours on LOW

Ingredients

  • 750 g/1 lb 10 oz boneless beef shoulder, trimmed of fat and cut into large chunks
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra if needed
  • 350 g/12 oz aubergine, peeled and chopped
  • 8 dates or ready-to-eat dried apricots
  • 2 preserved lemons, sliced
  • 1 fennel bulb, sliced
  • 4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp ras el hanout
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée
  • 250 ml/9 fl oz/1 cup Beef Stock, ready-made stock or water
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • chopped coriander leaves, to serve
  • pomegranate seeds (optional), to serve
  • cooked couscous, to serve

Method

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.