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.
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.
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
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.
Post: “Sunday Mornings: Coffee, Music and Reflections”, to be published on Sunday
10th March at 10am (GMT)
Photo taken from The Guardian