Saturday, 26 March 2011

Moroccan Lamb with Preserved Lemon and Green Olives

Serves 6
1.2 kg of leg of lamb – weight after de-boning
1 large onion - finely chopped
6 cloves of garlic – finely chopped
5 cm piece of ginger- peeled and finely grated
1 large pinch of saffron – steeped in a 150ml of boiling water for 15 minutes
1 tablespoon (15ml) of caraway seeds
1 teaspoon (5ml) of paprika
¼ teaspoon of cayenne pepper
3 tablespoons tagine spice*
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1 preserved lemon - seeds removed, pulp removed and finely chopped, flesh cut into fine pieces
Zest of one fresh un-waxed lemon - very finely chopped
1 generous handful of green olives
1 bunch of fresh coriander - rinsed and shaken dry
1 generous glug of olive oil
½ litre of water
½ kg of medium grain cous cous (not the type that you cook in a sachet, it ends up too wet)

a moroccan tagine
This is really a tagine recipe but I don't have one, so I use a casserole instead!  Like many casserole dishes it benefits from an overnight marinade and then being partly cooked the day before you eat it. It allows the flavours to blend.

Prepare the lamb by removing any fat, skin etc and cutting it into chunks of about 5cm. Put the lamb, onion, garlic, ginger, and spices in a bowl and mix thoroughly until the meat is fully coated. Add the saffron liquid and stir again. Cover and marinade overnight in the fridge. Turn it two or three times before it is cooked to allow the flavours to be absorbed fully into the meat.

Using a heavy casserole dish on a low to medium heat, add some olive oil and lightly cook the lamb. Do this in batches and don’t burn the onion. A high heat will lose some of the flavours of the spices, you are not trying to sear the meat but to gently soften the onion. Add more oil and turn the pieces as necessary.  Put each batch to one side and then put it all back in the casserole when you have finished.

Add the preserved lemon and water. Bring to the boil on a low heat, cover the dish and then cook for one hour in a pre-heated oven (180 deg C). Stir after half an hour and check that there is sufficient liquid. Leave overnight at room temperature.

If there is a lot of fat from the lamb then remove some of it. If you have prepared it well this should not be the case, but it's more likely if you have substituted a shoulder of lamb.
Cut off the stalks of the coriander and tie them up with kitchen string like a bouquet garni. Finely chop the rest of the coriander and put it to one side. Add the zest of lemon, the olives and coriander stalks to the casserole. Bring to the boil slowly over a low heat.

Cover and simmer for 15 minutes, check that there is enough liquid and then add the chopped coriander, keeping a little back as a garnish. There should be quite a lot of sauce because the cous cous absorbs it rapidly, but it should not be too thin. Adjust the seasoning. Add black pepper to taste and salt if it is needed. The preserved lemon and olives give quite a lot of salt, so taste it first!

Continue to simmer for another 15 minutes. Remove the coriander stalks and garnish with chopped coriander. 

Serve with cous cous. I like to use separate dishes, even though it is not traditional, it allows you to keep it better if there is any leftover! 

This recipe is good enough to serve to sophisticated guests, but the choice of wine is a problem.  Like most spicy food, even if it is not very hot with chili or cayenne, it tends to fight with the flavours of the wine.  I chose a very full bodied and full flavoured expensive red Cahors but this is really more suited to red meats, duck or game.  Otherwise serve a crisp white or rosé.

* tagine spice is easily found here.  It contains cumin, powdered ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, ground coriander, dried garlic and dried parsley.  I use it for both lamb and chicken dishes.


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