Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Claudia's Moroccan lamb tagine with peas and preserved lemons

Autumn is here and we've not had a lemon recipe for a while! Funny how one's thoughts turn to lemons as soon as the skies get moody...

This is one of the very first Middle Eastern dishes I ever cooked (as a way of using those magic preserved lemons), and it is pretty much a classic in my food repertoire now. It's clean, sunny taste is perfect whatever the season, but I reckon its at its best when the weather is less than stellar. It is also as great an introduction to the seductive taste of preserved lemons as you are likely to find.

I made it for an unseasonably cool January birthday party in Australia one year. There was a big spread, and when I first checked, it looked like my "exotic" contribution might have been a bit too exotic. But just a few minutes later, you'd've been hard pressed to get enough to coat a bit of bread. You can't get much more of a vote of confidence than that.

I've adjusted the recipe for metric and the pressure cooker, but the credit for it rightly belongs with my very, very favourite food writer, Claudia Roden, who wrote the wonderful article in the Guardian that it appeared in a few years back. A culinary tour Morocco is one of my dreams, and Claudia's writing is one of the main reasons. Rereading the article now, I wouldn't be surprised if I'm not the only one.

Now there is nothing exotic at all about the recipe, the preserved lemons notwithstanding (and they are only salt and lemons after all). If you don't have any, go and make yourself some now. They're a total doddle. Really. We'll still be here when you've got them ready.

I made the tagine with beef this time, and I can tell you that it is not a patch on the lamb version. Leg being my preference. Perhaps its as well, then, that we were not able to take it to its intended recipients due to the Young Man being sick with the cold. Sorry Sa, I'll make it again next time!

Lamb tagine with peas, preserved lemon and olives (if you can find them (g))

Serves 6-8

1 kg leg or shoulder of lamb, trimmed of excess fat and cut into cubes
2 tbsp vegetable oil [S: optional, I've never put it in, and never needed it]
1 onion, chopped
salt and pepper [S: go light with the salt as the lemons are salty]
1 tsp ground ginger
A good pinch of chilli powder or chilli flakes (optional)
½ tsp saffron powder [S: optional; it is a minor attraction on this dish]
500g shelled peas
2 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
Peel of 1 preserved lemon or more, cut into pieces
A dozen green olives

1 Put the meat in a large pressure cooker with the oil (if using), onion, salt and pepper, ginger and saffron. Almost cover with water and cook under low pressure for 45-55 minutes or until the meat is very tender.

2 Add the peas, tomatoes, preserved lemon peel and olives and cook uncovered a few minutes longer, until the peas are tender and the sauce reduced.


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