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Project Food Blog Entry #2: The Classics – How To Cook As If You Know What You’re Doing


Sep
26

Tagine Baby

As you may have guessed by the title of this post I made it through to round 2 of Project Food Blog 2010! A huge, massive, enormous thanks to everyone who voted for me – was thrilled to bits! For challenge 2 we were told to have a go at an “ethnic classic dish from another culture” and see how well we could pull it off. So what did I pick? A Moroccan tagine dish.

Two of my girl friends went to Morocco when they were about 16 and came back raving about everything. They even talked with great fondness about having to bring their own toilet paper up and down mountains. But I’ve never been. When trying to decide what I should cook I asked myself, what would I never think to make? And the answer was a tagine, something I’ve never attempted or eaten very much – Middle-Eastern doesn’t feature heavily on my radar. In fact, it’s so far removed from what I normally do it may as well not exist. But that’s why I loved the idea: why not really have a go at something different?

I didn’t want to do a regular tagine, I wanted to try something different – interesting when you think that before yesterday I didn’t even own a tagine. But what to put in it? I remembered Nigella has a lamb salad with pomegranate, but that was too… plain, so I had a hunt through my Flavour Thesaurus, saw ‘Lamb & Cherry’, and the idea was born: a lamb, pomegranate and cherry tagine. I adapted this from a couple of versions I found online, Marc’s of No Recipes (who is also entered in this! Hi Marc! Thanks!) and Diane’s of 2 Stews (thanks!).


The tagine’s domed lid allows condensation to drip back down, creating succulent and tender meat. My tagine, bought at Whisk, is a beautiful Emile Henry one, big enough to cook for two. There’s another which is big enough for six, but that was a little too big.

Never having owned a tagine before I started researching how to care for it, specifically mine which is glazed ceramic – it’s astonishingly easy. Before I started cooking I poured enough milk into the tagine to cover the bottom, placed on the hob and brought it to the boil, then took it off the heat, allowed it to cool completely, then washed it. This is called seasoning your tagine. Seasoning removes the clay ‘flavour’ and tempers the tagine.

Tagines are awesome: a one-stop pot for all of your cookery needs. The entire process was ridiculously easy: browning the meat, caramelising the onions, pouring in the pomegranate juice and cherries, lid on and into the oven – worked like a dream, and it was such a relief to relax over this, as I’d spent my entire day running around like a mad woman. Maybe I have beginner’s luck, but I’m not sure how anybody could get this wrong – it was that simple.


Off-cuts work brilliantly in this dish – it cooks for at least an hour in the oven (mine went for an hour and a half, probably could’ve had longer, but it was 11.30pm by this point and I was hungry) so your meat gets really tender. I used lamb neck fillet and shanks, and the result was delicious. Momma Lee had seconds and thirds!

I served this with couscous, that other Middle-Eastern staple. I could’ve served it with flat bread too, but didn’t because did I mention that I only had two days to figure out what I was going to do and make it, and it was 11.30pm by this point?! I’m sure you’ll forgive me. But you could serve it with flat bread as well.

The sweetness of the pomegranate juice and the cherries worked with the lamb amazingly, but wasn’t overpowering. Lamb can be gamey so it needs lightening up, which this combination did perfectly. Nom-a-licious.

Anyway, enough chatter from me. If you don’t own a tagine: go out. Buy one. That’s an order. I can see myself using mine for a long time to come – makes me wonder if I should’ve bought the bigger one… enjoy!

LAMB SHANK, POMEGRANATE & CHERRY TAGINE

Ingredients
For The Tagine:
2 lamb shanks
Strip of lamb neck fillet, chopped into large-ish chunks
2 medium red onions, sliced thinly
1 preserved lemon
1 tbsp minced ginger
1 tbsp minced garlic
2 cinnamon sticks
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp cardamom pods
1/2 cup dried cherries
1 cup pure pomegranate juice
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil

To Serve:
4 1/2 cups quick-cook couscous
Knob of butter
Fresh parsley, chopped (to garnish)
Fresh mint leaves, chopped (to garnish)
Fresh pomegranate (to garnish)
Flaked almonds (to garnish; optional)

Method
1. Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees C.
2. Place the meat in a bowl and salt and pepper generously. Don’t be shy with the black pepper! Sprinkle the coriander and cumin over. Set aside.
3. Place the tagine on the stovetop and turn on the heat. Heat until very hot, then add 1-2 tbsps of olive oil and brown the meat. The key to this is a) don’t crowd the pot and b) leave the meat undisturbed on each side – the sugars will come out and caramelise on the surface. When browned, remove the meat to a separate plate and set aside.
4. Saute the onions, ginger, garlic, cardamom seeds and preserved lemon together until the onions are soft and beginning to caramelise. Add cinnamon sticks and sautee for another 5-10 mins.
5. Return the meat to the tagine and add the pomegranate juice and cherries. Bring to the boil, taste and re-season as necessary.
6. Remove the tagine from stovetop, place the lid on tightly (I overstuffed my tagine, which meant the lid was wobbly, but settled down over cooking) and place in the oven. Cook for 1 1/2 hours (or longer) until lamb is tender and falling off the bone.
7. About 10 mins before the end of cooking steam the couscous according to directions. Remove couscous to serving dish, add a knob of butter, season as you wish and use a fork to fluff. Garnish with chopped parsley.
8. When the lamb is cooked, remove from oven and garnish: sprinkle fresh pomegranate seeds over the top (handy tip: cut the pomegranate in half, hold it over your dish seed-side down, and bash the heck out of the skin-side with a wooden spoon – seeds will rain down), flaked almonds (if using) and fresh mint leaves.
9. Serve with couscous and give yourself a pat on the back for having made something delicious, beautiful and new!

That’s all for now. More soon. I’ll let you know when you can vote, thanks again to everybody! Oh, if you’re on Facebook and want to get the latest updates, culinary tricks, and photos that don’t make it onto the blog before the rest of the crowd, click the widget on the right to Like and join the Facebook page!

Until next time, friends – peace and love.

Jax x

34 Responses to “Project Food Blog Entry #2: The Classics – How To Cook As If You Know What You’re Doing”

  1. Chanel11 Says:

    Hubby is a fan of any tagine recipe – and I'm sure this one with gorgeous pomegranate and cherries would be no exception

    Side bar: How did you even manage to eat something as sumptuous as this at 11:30 at night?!

  2. sophia Says:

    I have yet to try a single tagine in my life. I am clearly missing out.

    Gosh. What a sultry, sexy way to use pomegranate. And cherries, too! AMAZING.

  3. Ashley Says:

    WOW! That meal looks delicious. This tangine business seems mighty beneficial!!! I'll have to try it sometime. It kind of reminds me of these french iron pots that my sister has…they seem to be versatile like the tangine.

  4. BakingWithoutABox Says:

    Yay! Congrats on advancing to the 2nd challenge. That's awesome. Love the tangine. Great job on that lamb shank!

  5. Mochachocolata Rita Says:

    I've yet to try cooking/eating any morrocan dish. Can't wait to try! :D

  6. Lawyer Loves Lunch Says:

    You know the food's awesome in a country if people don't mind carrying their own toilet paper. Oh, and I've been lusting after a tagine for months now. Yours is lovely and I love the bright flavors and colors in this tagine! You'll get my fo' sho' :)

  7. zenchef Says:

    Yummm! It looks seriously delicious. I can almost smell it from here! Very nicely done. Good luck with the rest of the competition.

  8. Jan/Thella @ I Love. Therefore, I Cook. Says:

    my husband loves lamb tagine and i'm in luck to have bumped into you over at #pfb2010. you got a really lovely presentation of the challenge here. so first, i'll re-create your dish at home to feed hubby. and second (more importantly), i'll vote for you! :) grats on making it to round 2 and here's hoping we both get to the 3rd. best of luck!

  9. Monet Says:

    From the very first shot of the pomengranate to the very last, I was drooling. Such a lovely post, lady! I've been wanting to make a tagine at home for such a long time. Now I feel capable! I know you are going to do great in PFB. You are such a bright and lovely presence in the blog world, and I'm honored to have you following me! I will be voting for you tomorrow!

  10. C.G. the Foodie Says:

    I am loving the cherry-pomegranate combination! Yum!!!

  11. Russell at Chasing Delicious Says:

    This looks absolutely delicious! The pomegranate pops next to that lamb and I bet it tasted scrumptious. I'm tempted to buy a tagine just to try this recipe.

    Good luck!

  12. Donna @ Way More Homemade Says:

    I love lamb with fruit flavors like cherry & pomegegranate. I have dishes that I have done with both. Great job and way to expand your horizons into an area you've not gone before.

  13. Amelia PS Says:

    looks great. I like the photo with the pomegranate in your hands.

    (see my entry here: http://www.foodbuzz.com/project_food_blog/challenges/2/view/869)

  14. Leah Says:

    I could NOT find pomegranate any where in my county for my entry! I'm so jealous!

  15. Jackie Says:

    Chanel11 – this one's a definite winner, you must make it for Hubby! And when he says it's the best tagine he's ever tasted you can say, "Jackie told you so". As for eating it at 11.30pm, I confess, I was so tired by this point I had a few mouthfuls to taste it, then saved it for my lunch the next day. Otherwise I would've fallen asleep in my food!

    Sophia – aw, thank you ;) Now go out and try a tagine!

    Ash – you can totally use a le creuset pot to make this! I should've mentioned, you don't HAVE to have a tagine… I just think you should. Hence my refusal to substitute with a heavy-bottomed and tight-fitting-lidded pot!

    Amanda – thank you, lovely!

    Rita – you totally must! I don't know where in HK you could find it, but if all else fails you'll have to visit me in London and I'll make you a tagine ;)

    LLL – girl, you speak the truth ;) Honestly, Momma Lee was rather excited that I was buying a tagine because she's always wanted one too! Now she gets to use mine!

    zenchef – aw, thank you! Good luck to you too!

    Jan – thank you! Let me know how Hubby like this one ;) Good luck – hopefully see you next round!

    Monet – you are such an amazing girl, thank you beautiful! <3

    CG – it's a good 'un!

    Russell – oh I think you should buy a tagine. I think EVERYBODY should buy a tagine. Go. Go now. BUY A TAGINE! ;)

    Donna – thank you! Great combination, isn't it? Yum =)

    Amelia – thank you! Those are actually Momma Lee's hands – I made her stand in the bathroom and hold the pomegranate out for about ten minutes. Oh the things I do for photography…

    Leah – ah! Disaster poop pants! They're only really just in season at the moment – I managed to snap mine up at Tesco's late Saturday afternoon. Here's hoping you find some for a future dish!

    Jax x

  16. Reeni Says:

    This is gorgeous Jax! I can only imagine the flavors the pomegranate and cherries give it. It looks so earthy and comforting. Lots of luck with this round – I'm supporting you 100%. And then some! xoxo

  17. KELLY Says:

    Looks DELICIOUS! I'm going to try this one at home.

    Kelly

    http://www.barbaricgulp.com/2010/09/project-food-blog-classics-challenge-2.html

  18. Jackie Says:

    Reeni – thank you lovely girl :D It was totally delicious! Good luck to you too, here's hoping we see each other in round #3 ;)

    Kelly – thank you! If you do try it let me know how it turns out! Good luck :D

    Jax x

  19. Beth Says:

    I love tagines! Your photographs make this one totally come to life.

  20. catty Says:

    I love tagines but after a week in Morocco I could not look at another one! But yours sounds delicious! Good luck with Project Food Blog!

  21. Jackie Says:

    Beth – aw, thank you, glad you liked it!

    Catty – in that case you are forgiven ;) Thank you lovely! We've gotta have lunch/dinner again before you leave the country!

    Jax x

  22. riceandwheat Says:

    Ok, now I need to go out and buy a tagine. :) Great choice of recipe and excellent post!

  23. Jackie Says:

    SO I HAVE COMMANDED AND IT SHALT BE DONE ;) Seriously though, do it. Tagines are AWESOME. Thanks Angi!

    Jax x

  24. What to cook today Says:

    Congrats for going to 2nd round :)

  25. Kellie @ Blackboard Kitchen Says:

    I like your blog title and the title of your post! I feel as though I understand what you mean…on both counts. :) Good luck in the competition!

    My entry: http://www.foodbuzz.com/project_food_blog/challenges/2/view/1008

  26. Lick My Spoon Says:

    Always been a bit skeptical about lamb, but maybe I'll take your advice and drizzle some sweet pomegranate and cherries. If pomegranate chicken taste great, don't see why lamb shouldn't if done right? Now, to get myself a tagine!!!! And thank you for your tagine tips.
    Lick My Spoon

  27. Gina MarySol Ruiz Says:

    Pomegranate and cherry yum. Looks delish and you have one of my votes. Good luck!

  28. Gastronomicduo Says:

    Love the flavor combo. Looks great.

  29. jack Says:

    Excellent blog, I would like to try the food from your recipe. Good luck in the competition!

  30. Marc @ NoRecipes Says:

    Great photos of the pomegranate! Great to hear you used my recipe as a starting point. I always love seeing what my posts inspire. Your tagine looks delicious:-)

  31. chailong Says:

    It looks very attactive, I will try this one.

  32. tastesbetterwithfriends Says:

    Very cool. I thought about the tagine too. Looks like yours came out amazing:)
    vote for you!

  33. Jackie Says:

    Mgoh – thanks lovely :D Fingers crossed for the 3rd!

    Kellie – ha, thank you! Very sweet! Good luck in the competition, hopefully see you in the 3rd round!

    Steph – y'know a few people seem to have a problem with lamb. It's too… meaty. I think it's because their experience of it is a) tough and b) too gamey. Definitely try it with something sweet, like pomegranate and cherries. It's beautifully aromatic and delicious! Good luck in PFB2010!

    Gina – aw, thank you! :D

    Justin & Lori – thank you! It was/is great ;)

    Jack – thank you!

    Marc – seriously, thank you. Your recipe was just the inspiration I needed!

    chailong – thank you, do! It's delicious!

    Ethan – thank you! It came out really well, was very happy! You should definitely get hold of a tagine now ;)

    Jax x

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