Slowly roasted lamb shoulder. Rich, sweet, moist and so tender it just falls off the bone.
For me, it’s absolutely the dish of choice for a winter Sunday Lunch, which in our house generally happens around 6ish. This means we can have a lovely day doing Sunday-things-one-likes-to-do and still put a traditional roast on the table, to be shared with family or friends.
An early evening Sunday lunch with people you love is such a relaxing way to end one week and start the next. Everyone is mellow, the conversation’s chilled and all leave (early!) well-fed and contented, to get themselves for the coming week. And I can go smugly to bed, satiated by my weekly “taking care of people” fix.
What better way to slow roast lamb – or any meat – than in terracotta? I love it…it’s an ideal slow cooking medium – retaining flavour, moisture and all the goodness of whatever you’re cooking. Plus, it looks really great when you bring it to the table. And then there’s the theatre of lifting the lid at the table and hearing that Bisto “..aahhh..” (yes…I’m of a certain age) around the table.
So, to continue the story of my love affair with terracotta, I offer you a tradition a continent away from the Great British “meat and two veg” ……
TAGINE ROAST SPICED LAMB
WHAT YOU’LL NEED:
For the spice marinade:
Fresh ginger: 1 inch, peeled
Garlic: 2 fat or 3 medium cloves
Cumin: 1 tablespoon (freshly ground is best)
Coriander: 1 tablespoon (ditto)
Black pepper corns: ½ tablespoon (ditto)
Cloves: ¼ teaspoon (ditto)
Green cardomom pods: 8 (seeds only)
Lamb shoulder: 1.5kg
Onion: 1 medium/large
Olive oil: 2 tablespoons (not extra virgin)
Sea salt & freshly ground pepper
Apricots: 5oz (ready to eat)
Chopped tomatoes: ½ tin
Tomato puree: 2/3 tablespoons
Bay leaves: 3-4
Brown sugar: 2 teaspoons (any dark brown sugar)
Parsley and coriander: good handful
WHAT TO DO:
1. Firstly, prepare your mis-en-place for the marinade: Peel and roughly chop the ginger, garlic and onion. Grind the cumin, coriander, black pepper corns, cloves and cardomom seeds. Now put everything into to a food processor and blitz until you have a paste. (You can grate the ginger, garlic and onion before adding the spices and mixing everything together really well). Don’t add salt at this stage, as it will draw moisture from the meat.
2. Next, with a sharp pointed knife (a filleting knife is ideal) make lots of horizontal and vertical incisions all over the lamb shoulder. Spread the spice paste all over the meat, rubbing it well into the incisions – your lamb should end up with a nice spicy overcoat. Leave it to marinade in a covered tagine for 5-6 hours (or overnight) in a very cool place or refrigerator.
3. About 30 mins before cooking the lamb, transfer it (and all the spice paste) to a plate and leave it to come to room temperature. Wipe out the tagine base and soak it in warm water for 10 – 15 mins. Set the oven to 140 degs (fan) / Mark 2 (gas).
4. Now prepare your mis-en-place for roasting the lamb: Peel, halve and slice the onion thickly, roughly chop the apricots and assemble the bay leaves, chopped tomatoes, tomato puree and brown sugar.
5. Dry the tagine base well. Place a heat diffuser over a COLD gas ring or hot plate (see Techniques: Terracotta Cooking*). Put a tablespoon of olive oil into the tagine base and start heating it slowly on the diffuser over a slow/medium heat. When the oil is quite warm, add the sliced onions, season with salt and pepper and saute gently until the onions become translucent, then increase the heat slightly until the onions just begin to caramelise. Remove the onions from the tagine and set aside.
6. Return the tagine to the heat diffuser and add a tablespoon of olive oil. Increase the heat to medium and when the oil is hot, brown the lamb shoulder, “top-side” down, until you have a nice colour. Don’t move it about too much – keep it still or it will sweat rather than brown. Now turn it over and seal the under-side.
7. Return the onions to the tagine, and add in the chopped apricots, chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, bay leaves, brown sugar and a good sprinkling of salt. Check carefully for seasoning (remember you haven’t salted the lamb spice paste so you may well need to add a little more salt) and bring everything up to a gentle simmer.
8. Sit your browned lamb shoulder on the ingredients in the tagine bowl, spoon over the sauce generously, and cover with the lid.
9. Increase the oven temperature to 180 degs (fan) / Mark 5 (gas) and place the tagine in the oven for 30 mins, then reduce the temperature back to 140 degs (fan) / Mark 2 (gas) for about 2 hours, checking the sauce and adding a little water if the sauce looks too dry.
10. The lamb is cooked when the meat feels very tender and is coming away from the bone. Let the lamb sit in the covered tagine for about 15 minutes before serving.
11. Bring the tagine to the table with plenty of chopped parsley and coriander.
12. Remove the lid with a flourish and allow your guests to savour the wonderful aroma, admire your talent and drink your health.
13. Tuck in and enjoy!
I’d love to know if you like this recipe or, if you’ve given it a try, I’d love to hear how you got on! How about sharing your favourite tagine dish?