Thursday, March 01, 2007

Trying Out the Tagine

Our Hero was skeptical about the value of my new tagine, lovingly chosen by dear, dear A.

"You don't need any more kitchen stuff," he says. "This is a Hippie Pot. It is shaped like something hippies would live in." (Sidenote: How is a yert shaped, anyway?)

All Hippie Pot comments ceased once he tasted the lovely tagine of lamb and chickpeas I threw together in this beautiful dish. In the past I used dutch ovens to do tagine cooking, imagining there wouldn't be much difference between that and an authentic vessel. Our Hero even noticed a difference in the tenderness and juiciness of the meat. And the dish is so gosh darn pretty at the table. Still, if a tagine isn't on your list of must-haves, I've made them often in skillets and dutch ovens with great success.

I couldn't find an exact recipe for a tagine that suited my fancy, so I took elements from several and fashioned one to taste. These are not fussy dishes, and can be altered at will. I can't remember exactly how much of each item I included, but I think this is a good approximation.

Tagine of Lamb with Chickpeas
Olive oil
1 1/2 lb. lamb shoulder or leg, trimmed of fat, cut into stewing chunks
1 3-inch cinnamon stick
1 t. ground coriander
1/2 t. ground cumin
1/2 t. turmeric
1/2 t. cayenne pepper
2 large onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
Equal amount (approximate) fresh ginger, minced
1 cup orange juice
1 (I think it was 6-oz.) package dried apricots
1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/4-1/3 cup sliced almonds
Good handful each of cilantro and parsley, chopped

Heat enough oil to barely cover the bottom of pan (after swirling around a bit). Brown lamb on all sides. Add onion and cook until softened and translucent. Add spices, ginger, and garlic. Cook a minute or two to release flavors. Season with salt. Add orange juice and water to almost cover lamb. Bring to a boil (if you're using a tagine, you'll do this on low-to-medium heat), cover, lower the heat, and simmer very, very gently; 30-40 minutes. Stir occasionally, making sure there is enough liquid, adding water if necessary. Uncover dish, stir in apricots and chickpeas. Cover and cook 15 minutes. Uncover and simmer until dish reaches desired consistency (mine took another 15). Taste for seasonings, sprinkle with herbs and almonds, and serve with hot whole-wheat couscous. Sooooo good.

Note to Dad: This recipe could easily be made salt-free, as there are so many flavorful, wonderful ingredients that are given plenty of time to commingle and create something even better.

No comments: