Moroccan food is one of my absolute favourites. The flavour-profile is so incredibly deep & exotic, that just one bite alone immediately transports you to another world!
Tagine is the ultimate example of this richly fragrant cuisine. In this dish, the earthiness of spices is balanced & lifted perfectly by the clean, fresh taste of mint & lemons. Cumin and tomato lend the dish a comforting warmth, which is hugely welcome on a cold wintry evening such as this. Even though it’s cold and dark outside, the kitchen can still be a place of sunshine, filled with the heady aroma of spices and perfumed scents of distant climes…
People are often put off cooking tagine due to the length of time it requires in the oven. Well you’ll be pleased to know that this version is incredibly quick! It all depends on the cut of meat you use – I used leg-steaks which are infinitely tender and don’t require slow-cooking. Diabetics or those on a ketogenic-diet might also be unnerved due to the high content of dried-fruit (thereby sugar) in all the standard recipes. Here, that flavour & sweetness is provided by orange & lemon zest, which further contributes to the perfumed quality & adds to the dish’s authenticity.
This dish is so quick and easy that you can cook it on a weeknight after work, without spending hours in the kitchen. Whichever day of the week you choose, this recipe will prove an instant winner & soon become a stalwart of your repertoire. I served the tagine with cauliflower-rice, but you could equally forgo this in favour of steamed vegetables such as broccoli or mange-tout.
Firstly, roughly slice an aubergine and sprinkle the slices liberally with salt and pepper. Place them onto a baking-tray and drizzle with olive-oil to coat. Roast in a hot oven for circa 45 minutes, or until golden and soft to the touch.
To make the tagine, season your lamb and seal in hot oil in a pan on the hob. Once browned both sides, throw in a handful of finely sliced onion or shallots, chopped garlic and chilli. Once these start to soften, sprinkle in a teaspoon of ground cinnamon, two teaspoons of cumin, one of paprika and half a teaspoon of ground coriander. Stir these in, then deglaze the pan with a little port or red wine. This contributes to the rich sweetness of the dish and helps add that all important warmth.
Whilst the wine is reducing, drain half a can of tomatoes, discarding the juice. Add this to the pan, followed by the grated zest of half a lemon and orange. Finely slice a handful of mint and stir this through the sauce and then crumble in a chicken stock cube. Season and test for flavour. If the sauce lacks freshness add a quick squeeze of lemon juice. There should be enough liquid in the pan to come up to the ‘waist’ of the pan’s contents. If water is required, pour on and stir. Then place the pan into the oven for 20 minutes to cook through.
After this, both tagine and aubergine should be ready at the same time. If the tagine is still liquidy, stir in a small amount of tomato purée and reduce on the hob for another minute. Equally, if the chilli flavour is too dominant, add a quick sprinkle of table-sweetener, which will balance the taste. Ladle the lamb onto a plate, with the aubergine piled up beside it. Pour on a generous quantity of the rich sauce and garnish with more chopped mint and lemon-slices.
All that’s left is to enjoy!
Thank you for reading and bon ap!