In spite of having an undeniable love of food, and a food blog I really try to post regularly to, as a newly single girl, I find it easy to forget the joy of cooking if I let myself fall out of the habit. I offered to cook for my family last week on a bitterly cold winter’s night, and I’m so thankful for this delicious lamb dish in reminding me how much I love preparing food for my loved ones.
As an introverted person, I find it incredibly soothing to have a quiet afternoon dedicated to being in the kitchen, ideally concluded with the sharing of what I’ve prepared over conversation and wine with a few of my favourite people. Although I prefer to cook alone, I never enjoy my food nearly as much without company. Having hours interrupted in the kitchen to make meals is my idea of pure relaxation, however my Dad is quite the opposite and feels that to labour over food is to slave away in the kitchen. As a family, however, it has been important since I was a little girl to eat together. While I may have lamented eating dinner facing my brother opposed to Cartoon Network as a teenager, I now think there’s no better way to catch up with people than to share food: probably why I so often feel compelled to invite friends over for meals!
The cold weather lately has prompted me to return casserole type dishes, and this was an excellent reintroduction. I absolutely loved putting together this fragrant lamb dish that was totally appropriate for the weather. It’s slow cooked over a low heat for a number of hours, resulting in melt-in-the-mouth lamb pieces complimented by tender kumara in an aromatic, Moroccan-style sauce. Thankfully having a well stocked pantry here at my family home means I didn’t have to venture far from the spice cupboard for ingredients, however the spices used here are incredibly useful to have on hand for a number of dishes. The preserved lemons and figs keep for ages – certainly long enough to be kept for a repeat of the tagine without necessarily tasting repetitive. I served it alongside cauliflower pulsed into cous cous, fried with cumin, seasoned with lime juice and garnished with almonds and currants, however regular cous cous would be just as good. This makes plenty to serve 5-6 people.
preserved lemon and fig lamb tagine
- 1kg lamb shoulder, boned, trimmed of fat and diced
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 30g butter
- 1 brown onion
- 4 garlic cloves, crushed
- 2 tsp each of ginger, ground cumin, ground coriander, paprika and ras el hanout or Moroccan spice mix (alternatively use a mixture of cinnamon, cayenne and allspice)
- Salt and fresh black pepper to season
- 2 tbsp honey
- 500g kumara/sweet potato, cubed
- 1 cup warm water
- 4 segments preserved lemons, finely sliced
- 10 dried figs, finely sliced
- 1 handful each of fresh coriander/cilantro and flat leaf parsley
- 1 cup green peas (I used frozen)
- 1 tbsp cornflour
- Plain yoghurt, to serve.
- Preheat oven to 120C bake setting. I used a steam oven at 60% humidity to keep the tagine moist.
- In a large frypan, heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat, browning the onion and diced lamb. While browning, combine the dry spices in a small bowl.
- Add the garlic cloves and dry spice mix to the lamb/onion, stirring through to coat the lamb completely. Season liberally with salt and pepper.
- Transfer the lamb to a tagine or large lidded roasting dish. Add the cubed kumara and honey, then cover the meat and kumara with warm water. Place the lid on the tagine and cook in the oven for 2 hours.
- Remove the tagine from the oven and stir through the preserved lemon, dried figs, half of the chopped fresh coriander and parsley and green peas. Cook the tagine, covered, for a further hour.
- Remove the tagine again, stir through the cornflour to thicken the sauce slightly. Serve with couscous or cauliflower alternative and plain yoghurt.