Thursday, 26 February 2009

Q. What do you get if you cross salad dressing with lamb tagine?

A. Today's post! Fear not, this isn't some sort of ill-advised foray into fusion cuisine; I'm just lumping the recipes together for reasons of laziness. The dressing was made while I was still at my parents' on Sunday and my mum needed something to liven up some lettuce leaves. Or at least, she said she did - she might just have been humouring my unsubtle desire to tick another recipe off. You never can tell with mums.

13. House Dressing

Like the last post's ajvar, this comes from the "Extras" section at the back of Lighten Up, which is a collection of quick suggestions for stocks, condiments and accompaniments. The salad dressing recipe's nothing revolutionary: you just whisk together some red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, olive oil, salt and pepper, then finish off by thinning it out with mirin, white wine, yoghurt, apple juice, water or the juice of a tomato. I went for mirin as that's what we had to hand - I was a bit worried that it might make the dressing taste overly Asian (not ideal when you're eating moules marinières), but it was fine; a perfectly nice, basic vinaigrette.

I know you don't really need to see a picture of salad dressing, but I'm a completist.

14. Lamb Tagine with Dates

Just before I left Edinburgh I was a bit all over the place (entirely uncharacteristically, I might add. Ahem), and when Mike offered to step in and do the supermarket shop I didn't have time to put together a full list, so dispatched him with Lighten Up and instructions to get the ingredients for a recipe of his choice. Surprise surprise, he went for the tagine! Moroccan is Mike's favourite cuisine, so I'd been planning on saving the tagine for a semi-special occasion, but with a kilo of lamb in the freezer the die was cast. (A kilo because Mike bought quantities for the full four person recipe, but then I didn't need to tell you that, did I? Though by the time I'd savagely hacked all the visible fat off it I expect it weighed closer to 700 grammes.)

So. You cube the lamb, quarter some carrot lengths and finely slice an onion before you get on with the cooking. Jill just says to use a large, heavy based pan, but having received not one but two tagines for Christmas (...I'm not going to attempt to explain that) I thought it seemed a good opportunity to use one of them - I went for the heavy-duty-but-not-particularly-photogenic glazed terracotta as I haven't seasoned the more decorative one yet. But anyway! Having heated up some olive oil in your cooking dish (and be warned, in a tagine used with a heat diffuser this takes a long, looong time) you cook the onion briefly, then add the lamb, carrots, some cayenne pepper, saffron (I only just noticed that you're actually meant to use ground saffron, which I've never come across - I went for pistons), ginger, turmeric, a couple of cinnamon sticks, and enough water to cover the lamb. You're then supposed to stir through some tomato purée, but having gone to all the trouble of arranging the rest of the ingredients in concentric circles (whatever you're thinking, don't say it) I wasn't about to mess it all up by stirring something in, so I dissolved the purée in the water before pouring that over. Then everything can simmer away happily for an hour and twenty minutes (it is from the "Slow Food" chapter after all) - I gave mine an extra hour, partly to allow for everything to take longer in a tagine than in a conventional pan, and partly to ensure really meltingly tender lamb. When the time's up you add some dried apricots, honey, orange flower water (I misread the recipe and used way too much, whoops) and seasoning, simmer a bit more, add a few Medjool dates, simmer for another five minutes, and then - phew! - you're done.

And mmmmmm, it was worth the wait! I was a bit dubious about adding cayenne pepper but it really worked, giving the dish a lovely warmth and heat. The other spices were more conventional and produced a great, classic flavour - a rich, mellow, authentic-tasting tagine. And on that note of authenticity, am I allowed one quick rant? The serving suggestion is "with couscous". The serving suggestion given for tagines is always "with couscous". I get a bit twitchy about this, because although I have nothing against couscous per se, an accompaniment for a tagine it ain't. I think the desire to stick them together stems from the misconception that "tagine with couscous" is the national dish of Morocco, but in fact they're each stand-alone courses. Use bread to mop up your tagines, my friends! As you might be able to make out from the picture I slightly undermined this drive for authenticity by using naan bread and wholemeal pitta, but Moroccan bread's hard to come by in Edinburgh, mmkay?

Just in case anyone was concerned for our collective waistlines, we didn't get through the whole thing; I polished off the leftovers for breakfast this morning. (If you have strong views on what constitutes appropriate breakfast food, this may not be the blog for you.) Oohh, and I almost forgot - the tagine recipe appears in this month's Sainsbury's Magazine, which can be yours for the bargainous price of £1.40! There are three other Lighten Up recipes in there, too.

Mike says: "If I had to say I had a favourite type of food then I would say Moroccan, if I was being more specific I would say a tagine. This dish definitely lived up to my preferences but it was nothing original, it is the classic tagine recipe with apricots, dates and lamb, but it is mighty tasty. Later my peeps."

1 comment:

Laura @ Hungry and Frozen said...

I've made this one and loved it. Although mine was made in a bog-standard pan! I was a bit worried about all the sweet things going into it when I made it but it seemed to work. No comment on the concentric circles :)