Friday, June 12, 2009

Lamb and Apricot Tagine Because Baby It's Cold Outside

Sydney was 6C (42F) this morning, or more scientifically, "bloody cold". I know that there are other parts of the world where this would be considered positively balmy. But not here. The coldest morning on record in Sydney is 3C, so we are not far from the record. Meanwhile, I have been giggling to myself all morning about the Prime Minister trying to make himself sound like an ordinary Australian by pulling out some very old-fashioned sayings. Among them:
"fair shake of the sauce bottle", "rough end of a pineapple", "fair crack of the whip" and "don't come the raw prawn". It is particularly amusing because from him it all sounds so forced, however, I do love a bit of our old-fashioned slang. Which then, with the weather made me think that it was "cold as a witch's tit". I had presumed that this was an australianism, but a quick bit of internet research suggests not. In fact, the expression is amusingly explained on (whoever they may be) as "Witches don't freeze since they have to travel high speed on their brooms. Thus their nipples get very cold." Now there's a thought to carry with you today....

I made this lovely tagine earlier in the week, having read about it on the blog of the baking queen herself, Dorie Greenspan. The tagine was a good warming meal, however the leftovers were fantastic. Next time I will make this a day ahead then store it in the fridge to let the sauce flavours develop before I serve it. After a day of rest, the sauce has turned into something that is pretty high on the lick your plate clean scale.

PS I have a final question: why does the US call coriander cilantro, but still call the seeds of the herb, coriander seeds?

from Dorie Greenspan

Makes 4 servings
2 chicken bouillon cubes or 1 3/4 cups chicken broth
1/4 pound moist, plump dried apricots
About 6 tablespoons olive oil
About 1 3/4 pounds boneless lamb shoulder, fat removed, cut into cubes about 5cm on a side
4 medium onions, peeled, trimmed and coarsely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, peeled, trimmed, germ removed and finely chopped
400g can diced tomatoes, drained, or 4 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded and crushed
1 tablespoon coriander seeds, cracked (I do this in my mortar and pestle)
2 pinches saffron
1/2 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
About 1/4 cup chopped coriander leaves
1/2 cup toasted sliced almonds
Couscous or rice, for serving

Centre a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 160C.
If you're using the bouillon cubes, drop them into a medium-size bowl and pour over 1 3/4 cups of boiling water; stir to dissolve. If you're using chicken broth, bring it to the boil, then pour it into the bowl. Add the apricots to the bowl and let them soak and plump while you prepare the rest of the tagine.

Put the base of a tagine, a heavy, high-sided skillet or a Dutch oven over medium-high heat and pour in 3 tablespoons of the oil. Pat the pieces of lamb dry between sheets of paper towels, then drop them into the hot oil - don't crowd the pan; work in batches, if necessary - and brown the meat on all sides, about 4 minutes. Lift the meat out of the pot and onto a plate with a slotted spoon. Season the lamb with salt and pepper. Pour out the fat that it's in the pan, but leave whatever bits may have stuck to the base.
Return the pan to the stove, adjust the heat to low and add 2 more tablespoons of the olive oil. When the oil is warm, stir in the onions and garlic and cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, just to get them started on the road to softening. Add the tomatoes, season with salt and pepper, and continue to cook, stirring often, for another 10 minutes, adding a little more oil, if needed. Add the chicken bouillon/broth to the pot as well as the coriander, saffron - crush the saffron between your fingers as you sprinkle it into the pot - ginger, cumin, cinnamon and 2 tablespoons of the chopped cilantro leaves. Stir to mix and dissolve the spices, season with salt and pepper and spoon the meat over the base of vegetables. Top with the plumped apricots, seal the pan with aluminum foil and clap on the lid. Slide the pan into the oven.

Bake the tagine for 60 minutes before carefully lifting the lid and foil and scattering the almonds over the meat. Recover the pan and allow the tagine to bake for 15 minutes more. (NB If you are not serving straight away, hold the almonds until you are about to serve, then mix in and sprinkle with the last of the coriander).

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