Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Lamb Tagine with Dates, Almonds and Pistachios

I got the most beautiful tagine as a gift from my MIL.  I have been wanting one for a long time.  Now I am not timid in the kitchen, but I was a little nervous about using the clay vessel with the glass top stove, so after a bit of poking around on the Internet, I ordered a heat diffuser and a cookbook about cooking in these clay vessels.   The heat diffuser was recommended by the makers of my tagine but didn't say required, but I figured for 12 dollars it was worth the insurance.  I should have checked to see if my tagine fit inside my cast iron skillet, but too late:).  This is my first recipe out of the cookbook I ordered Tagines & Couscous.  If this recipe is the only one we like, the book was worth it.  We had some wonderful friends over, who didn't mind being guinea pigs to our first attempt with the tagine as well as the recipe;).  The only ingredient that I couldn't find at my local publix was the ghee.  The cookbook said you could use half butter and half olive oil if you couldn't find it, but there is a health food store right around the corner and I knew they would have it, so I made the extra stop.  I don't know if I would be able to make the smen that they said was traditional in many of these tagines; I have issues with fermenting (read controlled spoiling) butter. I loved the dish (despite my aversion to sweet and savory mixed), my husband was blown a way by it and declared it 5 stars all the way.  The boy thought more like a 3.5-4 but it does have a lot of flavors going on there and I can see it being a bit overwhelming to a younger eater.  To accompany the tagine, I made the couscous according to the book.  I didn't notice much of a difference in the texture or flavor doing the couscous in the oven, but it wasn't more difficult, and I think it might just be easier with larger amounts of couscous.

Lamb Tagine with Dates, Almonds and Pistachios

3 tablespoons of ghee
2 onions finely chopped
2 teaspoons of ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 pounds lean lamb  (from the shoulder neck or leg cut into bite-size pieces) I used shoulder
8 ounce ready to eat pitted dates
1 tablespoon dark ready honey
1 tablespoon olive oil pat of butter
3 tablespoons blanched almonds
2 tablespoons show pistachios
Leaves from a small bunch of fresh parsley finely chopped
sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
plain buttery couscous for serving (recipe follows)

Heat the ghee in a tagine or heavy based casserole dish.  Stir in the onions and sauté until golden brown.  This took me about 20 minutes because I didn't want to turn the heat up too high on the clay tagine even with a heat diffuser.  Stir in the turmeric ginger and cinnamon.  Toss in the meat making sure it is coated in the spice mixture.  Pour enough water to almost cover the meat and bring it to a boil.  Reduce heat cover with a lid and let simmer gently for roughly 1 1/2 hours.  Add the dates and the honey. Cover with the lid again and simmer another 30 minutes.  Season with salt and lots of black pepper.  Meanwhile heat the olive oil with the pat of butter in a small pan.  Stirring the almonds and pistachios in and cook until they begin to turn golden brown scatter the roasted nuts over the lamb and dates and sprinkle with the flat leaf  parsley. Serve with plain buttery couscous.  They also suggested a tart lemony salad to cut the sweetness,  I used the Lemon Chia Seed Dressing I again that I had originally made to go with the siracha salmon dish.

Plain Buttery Couscous
2 cups of couscous rinsed and drained
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 2/3 cup warm water
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 tablespoons of butter broken into little pieces
1 tablespoon of butter
2 to 3 tablespoons of blanched slivered almonds

Preheat the oven to 350.  Pour the couscous into an ovenproof dish. Mix the salt into the water and pour over the couscous. Leave the couscous to absorb the water for about 10 minutes, then, using your fingers,  rub the oil into the couscous grains to break up the lumps and aerate them. Scatter the butter over the surface and cover with a piece of foil or wet parchment paper and put in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes or until the couscous is heated through.  Meanwhile prepare the almonds melt the butter in a heavy base skillet set over medium heat add the almonds and cook stirring until the begin the turn golden remove from the pan and drain on paper towels take the couscous out of the oven and fluff up the grains with a fork.  Serve from the dish or tip on to pile in to a  high mound with the roasted almonds  scattered on top.

My new Tagine!!

The cookbook I ordered.

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