A rare Monday morning pondering over what to make for dinner, with no leftovers. I had my favourite meat, lamb, in the refrigerator and a pantry full of spices, but I had lost my cooking mojo. Fed up with every cookbook, I glared out my frosty snowy window. Spice. I completely craved spice. Not just the one-dimensional burning chilli heat, but that deep culmination of exotica, the foreign magic that permeates warmth from the inside. A stimulating spicy rich wet dish that leaves memories of a lingering aromatic belly dance on the taste buds. Oh Yes. (intro music maestro – ‘When Harry Met Sally’ ). This dish is without doubt, my winter food porn. I hadn’t made it in at least a year, and my Tagine which I had picked up in Tunisia on my honeymoon, was feeling neglected. I must add that it is only in the last five years or so that I have begun to experiment with dried spices. Really experiment I mean and not follow an in-depth recipe faithfully. We have always loved chillies, himself and I, and it was actually over a chilli cookbook that our romance blossomed /exploded. This adapted spiced up recipe with the lamb I used (as I lost my original old recipe on a usual scrap of paper) was courtesy of James Whelan Butchers. Not just a Master Butcher, but an inspirational local food hero for many. If you don’t possess a Tagine, a covered casserole dish will suffice or a double tinfoil lid on an old favourite ovenproof bowl.
Serves 2 generously
500g diced lamb
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves minced / grated garlic
1 oz ground almonds
1 oz sultanas (optional, I usually don’t like dried fruit with savoury, but this works)
50ml of lamb stock
1 ½ “ fresh ginger
1 tsp local honey / brown sugar
½ tsp turmeric
1tbsp smoked paprika
Pinch / ¼ tsp chilli powder
½ tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp sea-salt
Pinch of cracked black pepper
1 birds eye chili (de-seeded if you like)
Small tin chick peas
Juice of half a lemon
2-4 tbsp Rapeseed oil
Rind of a lemon
Toasted whole almonds
Mix all the dry spices together and toss the meat in, covering completely in the spices.
If using a tagine, place it in the oven to heat on low at 150C to warm the ceramic for 10 -15 minutes. Yes it will smell a bit if it is an original piece.
If using a casserole dish, skip this step.
Put a frying pan with half the rapeseed oil onto heat over medium.
Mince or finely chop the garlic and ginger. Open and drain the chick peas.
Now fry half the lamb in the oil to colour and brown.
Repeat with the remaining lamb and place in the tagine or casserole dish with the remaining ingredients.
Cook at 180C for 1 ½ hours.
Serve with Saffron & pomegranate couscous / longrain rice.