Friday, June 20, 2014

Cooking With Lady Evil: Lamb Tagine

My parents came over for dinner last week. Like I usually do when my parents come over, I pulled out all the stops to put forward the appearance of being a serious cook who doesn't live on peanut butter and jelly. I had recently stumbled upon this recipe and decided to give it a try. Or at least to give something similar to it a try. I have a bad (?) habit of unnecessarily fancifying every recipe I try. Here's my version (along with my reasoning for stuff I changed or added):

Lamb Tagine


3 1/2 pounds bone-in lamb shoulder chops*
2 whole cloves*
1 tablespoon dried parsley*
2 teaspoons dried basil*
7 garlic cloves (4 whole, 3 chopped or crushed in a garlic press)*
1 teaspoon salt*
8-10 whole black peppercorns*
1/2 cup dried chickpeas**
1 cinnamon stick
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin***
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 tablespoon fresh chopped ginger
2 large tomatoes, diced****
1/2 cup whole dried apricots, snipped in half with kitchen scissors
1 tablespoon tea-rose petal preserves*****
Sea salt and ground black pepper
1 10 oz box plain couscous******
1 pinch saffron threads******

The day before cooking the stew, trim away excess fat from lamb chops and carve into 1" cubes. Put meat into an airtight container and store in fridge for later use. Put bones from shoulder chops into a stockpot and pour in enough cold water to cover--about 6 to 8 cups. Bring to a boil. An opaque gray froth will form on top of the boiling liquid; carefully skim the froth off with a spoon and add the cloves, dried parsley, dried basil, 2 of the whole garlic cloves, whole peppercorns, and 1 teaspoon salt. Partially cover and simmer over low heat for 2 hours. Meanwhile, put chickpeas in a medium saucepan with enough water to cover them by an inch or two.

Strain the broth through a fine sieve and discard bones and spices. Let cool and skim off fat. Pour into airtight container and store in fridge. Let chickpeas soak overnight.

Drain chickpeas, return to same saucepan, and add water to cover. Add the remaining 2 whole garlic cloves and cinnamon stick. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes, until chickpeas are tender. Drain and discard garlic cloves and cinnamon stick. While chickpeas are cooking, toast coriander seeds in a small skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 2-3 minutes. Transfer seeds to a mortar and add red pepper flakes. Coarsely crush seeds and pepper flakes with a pestle. Mix in cumin, cinnamon, paprika, cardamom, ginger, and turmeric and reserve in mortar.

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Season lamb cubes with salt and pepper and lightly brown on all sides. Transfer lamb to a medium bowl and gently saute chopped garlic and chopped ginger, about 2 minutes. Add spice mix and saute 1 minute more. Add tomatoes and lamb. Add 3 cups of reserved lamb broth. Bring to boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer about 1 1/2 hours. Stir in chickpeas and simmer until heated through, about 10 minutes. Stir in apricots and rose preserves and simmer for 5 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Cook couscous according to directions on box, substituting remaining lamb broth and saffron threads for water. Serve stew over couscous.

My Verdict:

This recipe was amazing. It smelled delicious, tasted even more delicious, and the flavors intensified and improved as the leftovers sat in the fridge. However, it was also labor-intensive and hella expensive, and its spice levels might be too high for some peoples' palates. Great thing to make for special occasions and impressing your foodie friends; not a good choice for a quick, simple meal for that friend or relative who always orders plain cheese pizza. 

*My local grocery store only carries whole shoulder chops, and I hate wasting food so I decided to make broth from the bones and use it instead of the chicken stock the original recipe calls for.

**It turns out the measly 3/4 cup of dried chickpeas in the original recipe becomes a huge crapload of chickpeas once they've been re-hydrated and cooked. I recommend reducing the amount a bit.

***The original recipe calls for whole cumin seeds. I didn't have any.

****The original recipe calls for canned diced tomatoes. See what I said above about unnecessary fancification.

*****I really like the extra bit of sweetness they add to the aroma and flavor, but I do acknowledge that they're kind of an acquired taste. Also they're 12 bucks a jar.

******I wanted to use up the rest of the lamb broth. Again, hate wasting food. By the way, saffron is even more expensive than the rose petal preserves: sixteen bucks for a .8 ounce jar. That's POINT eight ounces. Not eight ounces. If you want saffron, I recommend asking for some for Christmas rather than buying it yourself. 

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