I’ve been getting plenty of use out of the ras el hanout that I made fairly recently and it is particularly good with lamb. Of course, being in New Zealand, there’s no shortage of the baa-ing beast although, as the Boyfriend told a former vegetarian friend after one such dinner, we only eat the ugly ones!
A little while ago I was cooking dinner – which I decided should have a Moroccan flavour – for some members of the Boyfriend’s family. Desert, in the form of Greg Malouf’s Chocolate Bread and Butter Pudding with Turkish Delight, was decided on first so all that remained was to figure out a complementary main course for eight people beforehand. I decided on two dishes – a vegetarian (albeit Greek) Spanakopita and my slow cooked Moroccan Lamb and Apricot Tagine with Ral Al Hanout, with a large bowlful of Couscous with Toasted Nuts served alongside.
Most of this menu can be prepared ahead which is always a huge advantage when people are coming round for dinner and you have a small kitchen. The Boyfriend and I made the Spanakopita and Bread and Butter Pudding in the morning, putting them aside to be cooked at the last minute. About two hours before guests were due I got the Moroccan Lamb and Apricot Tagine into the oven. As always, there were plenty of things to be done at the last minute but, with all hands on deck, nothing got out of hand and we managed to feed everybody – eventually!
Moroccan Lamb Tagine
Olive oil – 4 tablespoon
Stewing lamb – 1kg, in 4cm cubes
Juice of one lemon
Onions – 2, large
Garlic cloves – 6, large
Fresh thyme – a few sprigs
Ras el hanout – 2 teaspoons
Tinned chopped tomatoes – 2 x 400g tins
Water – 250mls
Apricots – 200g
Cooked chickpeas – 400g (or use black-eyed beans or haricots)
Spinach leaves – 1 packet, thoroughly washed, dried and chopped
Sea salt, freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 160°C (325°F/Gas 2).
Heat the oil in a large heavy pan over a high heat. Add the cubes of lamb and fry in batches until browned on all sides. As the lamb is cooked, put it into an ovenproof dish and toss with the lemon juice.
Turn down the heat to medium, add a little more oil to the pan and cook the onions until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the Ras al Hanout and cook, stirring, for about a minute until warm and fragrant.
Add to the ovenproof dish with the thyme, tomatoes, water, dried apricots and season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook in the preheated oven for at least 1½ hours or until lamb is tender.
For the last ten minutes of cooking time, remove from the oven, taste and season if necessary, add the chopped spinach to the dish and return to finish cooking.
Serve with couscous and dollops of natural yoghurt.