Amazing tagine

I’ve  shared this recipe for fabulous lamb tagine before, but I didn’t actually tell the story behind it, nor what happened the first time I cooked it. For some reason I don’t like making lists, and if I do make a list I lose it, forget to take it wherever I need it, or miss something vital off or add in some totally random thing which I then puzzle over when I reread the list for whatever purpose I’ve made it.

I heard a radio programme while I was driving somewhere, when someone described making this lamb tagine. I managed to remember the programme and then looked up the recipe and I did actually make a shopping list of what I needed. We have loads of herbs, spices and other common ingredients always in the cupboard and then I substituted a different cut of lamb for the shank and  had a shopping list which was something like


I have this often-proved-wrong faith in myself to remember what my jotted notes meant so when I got home having been to the shops and set to with making the tagine, it soon became pretty clear that it wasn’t going to be quite according to the recipe – which I actually was following.

I’d bought the vegetable fennel – I should have written fennel seeds on my shopping list. I put the fennel to one side to make into soup another time. I had also bought ground ginger which would give the dish a completely different flavour from what should have been on the list, root ginger. The garnish was completely different from what was intended because I had bought actual fresh lemons not Moroccan preserved lemons. The garnish was also original because I’d got figs instead of prunes, so yes it wasn’t what was intended.

It smelt good, it looked good, but there was something wrong with the flavour – it had a very bitter taste which wasn’t what I expected. When I checked  it seemed I’d used smoked paprika instead of sweet… such a little thing made so much difference!

So thinking maybe I need a proper checklist in future to make sure my tagine is always as good as it was when I did assemble the proper ingredients and I did follow the recipe in a focused way, here is my plan:

Amazing tagine checklist:

Do I have these spices, and enough of them: sweet paprika (best quality v important),  fennel seeds, cinnamon sticks, turmeric, cardamom pods, cloves, coriander seeds, star anise, bay leaves, fresh coriander, fresh mint?
Do I have these other ingredients: lamb shank, large  onions, garlic, red chillies, fresh ginger, pre-soaked prunes, preserved lemons, almonds
Do I also have chicken or lamb stock, olive oil, salt?
Do I know what I’m going to serve with it, and have I got whatever it is: rice, couscous, cracked wheat, bulgar wheat etc?
Have I got the right sized pan, serving dish, dishes for rice and garnish?
Have I properly worked out the time it will take to cook (best cooked the day before, 3-4 hours, then reheated)?
Before I start cooking have I weighed out all my ingredients and got them to hand (I know how things like to disappear when my back is turned – or someone might have rearranged the cupboards and inadvertently concealed them)
Do I know what plates/bowls I’m giving to my guests, and are they warming ready to go on the table (which has been laid)

Amazing tagine ingredients for 4:

4 lamb shanks or 2 ½ lbs lamb
2 dsp sweet paprika (best quality v important)
1 dsp fennel seeds
1½ sticks cinnamon
4 dsp turmeric
5 cardamom pods
5 cloves
½ dsp coriander seeds
2½ star anise
3 bay leaves
2 ½ large strong onions (v finely chopped)
3 garlic cloves (chopped)
1 red chillies (finely chopped)
25g fresh ginger (peeled & grated)
1½ litres chicken or lamb stock (homemade preferably)
olive oil
For the Garnish
2-3 preserved lemons chopped very small
6 pre-soaked prunes  chopped very small
handful toasted almonds roughly chopped
handful chopped coriander
handful chopped mint
optional olive oil and lemon dressing

Amazing tagine recipe:

  • fry the onions garlic, ginger and chilli
  • add the spices and gently cook them for a few minutes, taking care they don’t burn which would make them butter
  • add the meat (you may prefer to brown it first, take it from the pan and then cook the onions etc – I prefer to do it the other way round to give it more flavour)
  • add the stock – as much as you think you need (you can always add more later) and bring to a simmer
  • put in a slow oven/slow-cooker for 3-4 hours – I don’t think it can overcook if it is on a slow-setting!
  • either cool and keep for the following day (improves the flavour) or serve with the carbs of your choice
  • optional – just before serving in add half of the prune/lemon/herb garnish mixture

Amazing tagine garnish recipe:

Make this half an hour before serving the tagine:

  • Mix the chopped prunes, lemons and herbs
  • if desired add half of this to the tagine just before serving
  • dress with olive oil and lemon juice if desired
  • scatter a few more chopped herbs and the almonds over the top
  • put into small dishes on the table to be added by your delighted guests!

Maybe with a checklist I will manage not to forget anything!

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