Wednesday 6 March 2013

Food, Music, Food, Music, Food, Music... Ad Infinitum

Winter is thankfully coming to an end and one of my two favourite seasons is about to start: spring. And spring to me means the power of the senses. Especially that of smell. I love the scents springs brings, whether it be the fragrance of new blossoms or the aroma of freshly-cut grass. Spring is that time of the year when we bring the garden furniture out (those with gardens, of course) to give it a good old scrub and varnish.

Hence my dish tonight is full of fragrance. I love, love, adore lamb meat. The rich flavour and tenderness of it is enough for me to write a thousand blogposts ad infinitum. I happened upon this recipe in the new cook section of the Saturday Guardian and knew instantly I had to cook it. I’ll probably wait until it’s a bit less cold and more springy but in the  meantime I shall leave you with the food and its corresponding music.

Fragrant lamb with prunes and almonds

2.5kg of lamb shanks, or 1.8kg of boneless lamb shoulder, trimmed of fat
2 tbsp butter
2 medium onions, thickly sliced
Pinch of saffron threads
6 garlic cloves, chopped
A thumb-size piece of ginger, peeled and slivered
1 small cinnamon stick
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp ground ginger
1-2 tsp ground cayenne pepper
150g golden raisins
300g pitted prunes
750ml chicken broth or water
300g chopped tomatoes
Salt and black pepper

For the garnish

1 tbsp butter
200g blanched whole almonds
Large pinch of salt
Small pinch of sugar

Preheat the oven to 160C/325F/gas mark 3. Season the lamb generously with salt and pepper and then set aside.

Melt the butter in a large frying pan. Add the onions, sprinkle with a little salt and crumble the saffron on top. Sweat the onions gently for about 5 minutes or until slightly softened. Remove from the heat and stir in the garlic, fresh ginger, cinnamon stick, coriander and cumin seeds, powdered ginger and cayenne pepper. Add the raisins and half the prunes.

Put the lamb in a deep casserole and spread the onion mixture over the meat. Add the broth or water and tomatoes, and cover the pot with foil and a tight-fitting lid. Bake for about 2 hours or until the meat is tender.

Take the dish from the oven and remove the foil and lid. Add the rest of the prunes and submerge them in the liquid. Raise the heat to 200C/400F/gas mark 6 and return the lamb to the oven, uncovered, for about 15 minutes to let the meat brown a bit. Remove the pot from the oven and let it rest for 10 minutes or so.

Skim off any fat from the surface of the tagine. Reduce the sauce if it seems thin. The tagine is ready to serve but will reheat perfectly, so you can make it today to serve the next day: the sauce will mature beautifully in the refrigerator overnight.

Just before you serve the tagine, heat the butter in a small frying pan over a medium heat and gently fry the almonds, stirring occasionally. When they turn golden, dry them on a paper towel and sprinkle with salt and sugar.

To serve, transfer the stew to a large platter and scatter the fried almonds over the lamb.

From Heart of the Artichoke by David Tanis (Artisan Books).

Musicwise, we’re starting really up high with a killer tune. No pun intended, by the way. Well, only just. You gotta love David Byrne and his Talking Heads. And Psycho Killer is one of those tunes that just gets better with time. Same with that lamb as you cook it for a couple of hours.

Did I mention before that we were going to start really high? Oh, well, let’s turn the temperature even higher. And turn the volume up, too. You know what they say about kitchen, the heat and the ability to stand it (smiles)? The Zep are always welcome here on my blog, especially this tune. It makes me ramble, or waffle, or waffle-ramble (smiles). Getting on a bit now, Jimmy and the boys, huh? But they can still rock the joint.

All right, all right. Let’s all calm down a bit now and take things slowly with our beautiful, lovely sista Jill Scott and He Loves Me. This is one of those tunes for which there’re no words, just feelings. Same as the tasty, tender meat of the lamb you’re cooking. Enjoy

And I’ll leave you tonight with another timeless melody, Downpresser Man, by the great Peter Tosh. I gotta have some reggae in my mix, even if it’s not of the sauce type. I hope you enjoyed the food and the music tonight.

Next Post: “Sunday Mornings: Coffee, Music and Reflections”, to be published on Sunday 10th March at 10am (GMT)

Photo taken from The Guardian


  1. This meal look absolutely delicious and love the picture yumm!
    Love the music too especially the song:He loves me.
    Really all the music sounds nice and beauty CIL!

  2. I completely enjoyed the music and the food tonight and thank you, dear Cuban. I have been looking for a simple lamb recipe and look forward to trying yours.

  3. Not a fan of lamb even before I became a vegetarian. Loved the music though - thank you.

  4. Me he copiado la receta, a mi también me gusta mucho el cordero y con las especies que tiene seguro que debe de estar bonísimo.
    Un abrazo

  5. oh mouth is watering....that meal sounds so rich in flavor....mmm...its going to be a long time til lunch, ha....

    nice love me some Zep too...i knew all but one of the songs so enjoyed the listen this morning....

  6. oh wow..sounds awesome...some great food and good music...can it get any better...smiles

  7. Wonderful meal / beautiful music...what more could one ask?

    (You mentioned in my blog that Cohen music is perfect for running! So true...I use his music for walking the track. Time passes so fast, as I get lost in the music even though I have heard each song a hundred times!)

  8. Wow, so mouthwatering, your recipe. I shall have to come back to listen to Jill Scott. Thanks once more for a superb post.

  9. A picture is worth.....a thousand taste buds? This HAD to smell heavenly as it was cooking...going to jot down the recipe and try sometime....we eat lamb every once in a while and this looks like it has moved up in queue! Fantastic choice of music...sat at the table eating breakfast during it all :) LOVE the talking heads...very fun! Enjoy your weekend!!!

  10. I'm veggie so I'll pass. Love the music though.

  11. Why am I suddenly ravenously hungry?
    And the music was fabulous!
    Thank you so much:)

  12. you seem to like intense songs with strong feelings. :)

  13. wow looks amazing and your a great cook as well as a writer love it

  14. Oh my goodness, those flavors! Those spices! I can imagine them blending beautifully as they simmer. YUM!

    Thanks for the dinner and entertainment! That was a lot of fun.

  15. Well, this vegan can eat the prunes & almonds at least. My favorite for the Heads, Burning Down The House.

  16. Many thanks for your kind comments.

    Intensity and passion are this blog's middle names! :-)

    Greetings from London.

  17. I thoroughly enjoyed your food and music today, though a week later.

  18. I am vegetarian but the food looks great-- and thanks for the Talking Heads. Old favorites that I do not listen to enough. k.

  19. That lamb dish is very Middle Eastern - in fact, I found a recipe similar to it in Claudia Rodden's book of Middle Eastern foods. The combination of cinnamon, prunes and almonds is so traditional - and so delicious. Thank you for reminding me of it Spring lamb will be out in the market in a few weeks and I am not one to resist locally raised Northern California lamb.

  20. This looks delish in all the right ways... sweet, textured, crunchy with a kick. Like your photo too!



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