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Lamb Tagine with Cinnamon and Dried Prunes

Thursday, October 8, 2009
Lamb Tagine with Cinnamon and Dried Prunes

I'm sorry, the lamb ran away. The rest of the ingredients (more or less) are all assembled here. True, we're missing the main character, but he didn't feel like showing up in front of everybody, looking such a mess. And he put it off to the next tagine.

The reason may be known, or at least may be understood by budding foodbloggers like myself. Photographing meat is so damned difficult; no matter how nice is your serving bowl or how well the dish turned out to be. It's already hard to take a decent portrait of photogenic subjects such as cookies, tarts or croissants (not that I've ever tried to make croissants, but let's not split hairs here....). So, it's already difficult take a decent photo of subject that are beautiful per se, let alone meat! Even worse if it's something with undefined outlines, like goulash or stews. What you've prepared with so much care (for this recipe, it took me one hour only to make the list of the spices I needed...) turns into an undefined brownish patch that would make anybody loose their appetite.

Yet, I really wanted to share this tagine, because it's delicious. Therefore, picture or non picture, I decided to palm you off with this post. I put together this patchwork-recipe looking around in the web and in all those books that I haven't put on sale yet. Cooking for so long with the spices, the lamb acquires a very distinctive taste, and most of all it becomes so tender that I still can't believe I made it myself (...I've never had a great relationship with meat). The most exciting thing is that while the meat is cooking, such an incredible scent will spread around your house (or your 20 square meters) that you'll feel like The Mistress of Spices. And I wouldn't be surprised if your neighbors, following the scented trail with their nose, will knock at your door with some kind of excuse, hoping in your famous generosity.

To avoid any misunderstanding, tagine is literally the name of the pot with a conic lid - usually a clay pot - that is widely used in Moroccan cuisine - and North African cuisine in general - for this type of recipes. The tagine is ideal for slow cooking, because thanks to its structure, aroma and steam are retained in the inside, and the meat turns out very tender and tasty. And with all the gadgets that I already own, how could I do without a tagine?
But let's come to the point, here is the recipe. Trust me, it's not your usual piece of meat.

Lamb Tagine
with Cinnamon and Dried Prunes

for two

lamb meat, cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes about 1 lb.
paprika, salt, pepper, fresh ginger, turmeric, ground cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, coriander, cloves, cayenne pepper to taste
whole cinnamon sticks 2
red onion 1/2
garlic 1 clove
saffron to taste
white vine 2 or 3 tablespoons
honey 1 or 2 tablespoons
pitted prunes about 10
olive oil

The night before, toss the lamb with one tablespoon olive oil and ground spices (paprika, fresh grated ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, coriander, cloves, cayenne pepper, and cumin). Cover and keep it in the fridge.
The next day, heat one tablespoon olive oil in the tagine, add meat with all its spices and let it brown on all sides. Take it out of the pan using a slotted spoon, add another tablespoon olive oil and cook garlic and onion, thinly sliced, for 5 minutes, adding some water if needed. Put the meat back in the pan; add salt, pepper, whole cinnamon sticks and the saffron previously dissolved in the white wine. Add water to almost cover the meat, put the lid to the tagine and let simmer for about one and a half hour, stirring occasionally. If needed, add more water, and adjust the taste with salt and spices.
Now, add honey and prunes. Let cook for another 15/20 minutes until meat is tender and the sauce thickens.
Serve with couscous.
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