Lamb and apricot tagine with couscous

Nigel Slater tagine without nigel

Over the last few weeks I’ve been experimenting with tagines. First I tried Lindsay Bareham’s lamb and apricot tagine. It looked beautiful and was quick to cook but tasted a bit insipid which was bizarre considering all the ingredients involved. I then tried a Nigel Slater recipe with the same name and I knew I’d found a winner. His version was slow cooked and absolutely packed with flavour.

Nigel Slater is a brilliant food writer but in my view he should never have been put on television. Is it just me who wants to drag him to the hairdressers? He’s also a little bit creepy. Like Nigel this dish is not a looker but don’t let that put you off because it tastes amazing.

It’s a bit tricky to source but don’t be tempted to miss out the preserved lemon – it cuts through the sweetness of the fruit and really lifts the whole dish.

Nigel Slater’s lamb and apricot tagine

Serves 4 generously

  • 1kg lamb shoulder, diced (to roughly 3 cm square) with as much fat trimmed off as possible
  • 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons of ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons of ground turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon of sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon of hot paprika (I couldn’t find this and so I used cayenne pepper instead)
  • 3 onions, roughly chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 60g sultanas
  • 2 tablespoons of honey
  • 1 teaspoon of saffron
  • 750ml of chicken stock
  • 2 x 400g cans of chopped tomatoes
  • 350g apricots (I used just 250g because this is the size of the bag and this was plenty, I also roughly halved them)
  • A preserved lemon (I used ¼ of a jar of preserved lemon paste which they sell in the ingredients section of Tesco)
  • A large handful of coriander leaves
  • A small handful of mint leaves
  • Some oil
  • Salt and pepper for seasoning

In a bowl toss the diced lamb in half the ground spices, cover with cling film and leave in the fridge for at least four hours, although overnight is best.

Set your oven to 160oC fan.

First brown the lamb in batches in a frying pan with a little oil until it is nicely browned on all sides and set aside.

Then, in a heavy-based casserole dish with a lid, cook the onion, garlic and the remaining ground spices in a little oil over a medium heat until soft and slightly coloured.

Add the sultanas, honey, saffron, stock, tomatoes, apricots and meat to the pan. Bring to the boil, cover with a lid and cook in the preheated oven for 2 ½ hours.

If using a preserved lemon, cut it in half and discard the interior pulp. Finely chop the skin and stir in to the tagine. Alternatively, add the preserved lemon paste and give it a good stir.

I found that after 2 ½ hours the sauce was beautifully thick and did not need reducing. If yours does look a little thin then Nigel suggests removing the meat with a draining spoon and boiling the sauce over a high heat until it thickens up, before returning the meat to the pan.

Just before serving add the coriander and mint.

Serve on a bed of couscous (see below). It is also nice with rice.

Couscous

For 2-4

  • 200g couscous
  • A pinch of saffron
  • 450ml of hot chicken stock
  • The juice of half a lemon

Make up the stock and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat, add the saffron and the juice of half a lemon, then the couscous in a stream. Give it a quick stir, cover with cling film and leave for 15 minutes until all the liquid has been absorbed. Before serving fluff up the couscous with a fork.

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