- 4 - medium-sized onions, roughly chopped
- - pinch of saffron (soaked in a little water)
- 15ml - fine ginger
- 1 - star anise
- - olive oil for frying
- 4 - cardamom pods
- 200g - fresh whole dates, pitted
- - salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 - x 410g tins chopped tomatoes
- 15ml - honey
- 10ml - fine cumin
- 4 - cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 - cinnamon stick
- 300ml - beef stock
- 2kg - lamb shanks, cut in portions; or leg of lamb cut into 2cm cubes
- 100g - whole roasted almonds, chopped
1. Rub the ginger and cumin into the meat with your hands. Set aside for about 30 minutes or longer so all the flavours can penetrate. Preheat the oven to 160°C. Heat the oil in a heavy-based casserole until warm and fry the meat in batches until golden brown. Dish out and set aside. Repeat until all the meat is sealed, adding more oil if needed. Fry the onion over mild heat in the same casserole until soft and glossy. Add the garlic and fry for another minute or two. Return the meat to the pot and add the rest of the spices. Season with salt and black pepper.
2. Add the tinned tomatoes, beef stock, saffron and honey, and bring to the boil. Remove the casserole from the heat, cover and bake for about 2-2½ hours or until the meat is soft, stirring mid-way through.
3. Slice the dates, then add these and the almonds to the casserole about 20 minutes before the meat is completely soft. Serve the tagine with couscous and chickpeas or with rice. Garnish with fresh mint and coriander.
A tagine is a traditional, heat-resistant clay pot with a trademark conical lid that’s commonly used in North African kitchens. The shape effectively traps heat and alllows steam to accumulate, creating condensation that drips back onto the slow-cooking meat. The dish is also then served in the pot. Tagine is also the name of a Moroccan-style stew that generally contains dried fruit and nuts for a sweet-sour taste. You don’t have to use a tagine-style pot for this dish – any heavy-bottomed casserole with a lid will do.
• To prevent the meat from being bland, braise small portions at a time. Make sure the casserole is warm so the meat can start frying immediately, and not lie in the oil; this way you know the meat will be sealed and not stewed.
• As soon as the tagine is covered and ready to stew, it’s important that the heat is low enough for the meat to cook slowly. The meat cubes should also not be too small: 2-2.5cm is preferable.