>> Monday, June 22, 2009
I've wanted to make a tagine for long, and I finally found the drive to do it thanks to the monthly roundup of the Spanish blog Hecho en mi cocina. The proposal for June was Arabic and Middle East food, so I couldn't resist any longer. Maybe I'm losing the sense of taste as I grow older, but I like spicy and hot food more and more every day. The story of my choosing this dish begins some time ago...
The thing is that one of my books on bread (one of many!) includes a recipe for a Moroccan bread with "ras el hanout". This lead me to do some research (ahem...) on this serious matter. For those of you who didn't know about it, like me, ras el hanout is a misterious spice mix, with as many formulas as Moroccan households. During my research and investigation... I found many interesting recipes along the way, the one I present here was among them. Then, some time later, while leisurely wondering in a supermarket my eyes fell upon a jar of... ras el hanout! My eyes nearly popped out of my head! I never thought I could find it in a regular supermarket. This is thanks to the many Moroccan immigrants we have. I had to buy it. When I arrived home I noticed the ingredients were not listed on the label... don't they push the secret-formula-thing a bit too far? Especially because it is compulsory to state the ingredients in the label.
Anyway, with my ras el hanout of unknown composition I decided to gamble with my family's health as well as my own and try this thing on a tagine. Tagines are a type of stew, typically cooked in these very beautiful pots with conic lid. Oops, this is a kind of pot I don't have! Well, to the point:
Moroccan style lamb tagine with ras el hanout (adapted from the blog Soulsman.com)
For the from-scratch ras el hanout:
For the tagine:
The recipe includes some couscous for garnish, but you can use rice also. I prepared some spelt couscous, but I must admit... again... that couscous is not my cup of tea.
To make the ras el hanout: mix all the spices and process them in a powerful food processor or coffee mill (clean the coffee mill before using it for this. Grinding some rice would do the trick). I've already told you how I had some smuggled ras el hanout, to add some color to my colorless life. Therefore no spices, no mill, no nothing.
Salt the lamb. Put some olive oil in a large pan, large enough to hold all the ingredients inside, and brown the lamb. Once it is as crisp as you like, put it aside. Stir-fry the onion till tender and translucent. Add the crushed garlic, fry a little, then add the ras el hanout... everything turns yellow! And the aroma is hard to describe... I suddenly felt like doing a belly dance... Then continue stirring and frying the yellowish mix for a minute or two so that the spices release their aromas, then add the rest of the vegetables along the dried apricots. Stir well for the vegetables to soak the spices, leave for another minute, then add the meat on top of the vegetables and add the stock or water. Lately I refuse to use any store-bought stock full of additives and glutamates. Being that I didn't have any frozen homemade stock in stock... I added water. It must cover the lamb almost completely. Then add the bay leafs, the honey and salt. You can adjust the salt later as you go.
Bring to a gentle boil and let simmer for 1.5-2 hours. After one and a half hour try the lamb for tenderness. I had to take out the lamb and vegetables and let the sauce reduce somewhat further, because it was a bit too liquid.
Don't you think my earthenware dish from Úbeda is simply gorgeous? Please, say yes.
Result: the vegetables garnish and the sauce are de-li-cio-us, addictive, with the precise hot touch. Not cutting the lamb was, on the other hand, a bad idea. The center of the shank was a bit hard. Besides, small chunks of meat tend to soak the flavour of the sauce more. I knew... but I couldn't do it any other way. Anyway, now I have an awful lot of scrumptious sauce with vegetables, I'm thinking about processing it and making a wonderful Moroccan soup...