Sunday, 28 November 2010

A Winter Warmer - Moroccan Beef Tagine

By 'eck, it's a bit nippy out int it?! According to the BBC Weather page it's minus 3 out. It's also due to snow for the next..... forever. Joy. The one and only good thing that can come out of such vile weather is that we can easily justify hibernating away all day filling up on food. And this tagine is ideal for such cold times!  It's full of warming spices such as ginger, paprika and cayenne pepper and Christmassy fruits including dates.

I used this Anthony Worrall Thompson's Moroccan lamb tagine recipe. First adjustment to this one was the use of beef rather than lamb. Sorry, but things are tight and stewing beef was half the price of stewing lamb.  Needs must and all that! I actually made this a few weeks ago, using stewing lamb on the bone (I managed to get some cheap from the reduced section in Sainsbury's) and the meat was really tender and, as it was on the bone, it was tastier than usual, if a little fiddly.

Anyway, this time I was going to give beef a go. I had a friend coming at 7 for dinner and drinks and after getting in from stocking up on the wine at 3.30, I realised that I didn't have all that much time to prepare food. To top it all off the husband had left the kitchen in a state so I would have to do the washing up before cooking. I then read the recipe. Balls. I had forgotten that the meat was supposed to marinate overnight. I cleared a small space on the counter and started measuring the spices out. I was only making half the dish, and so flapped about a bit halving the quantities of the spices and in all the fluster of the messy kitchen, the time pressure and the error in not marinating the meat, I made another mistake and put all the spices in with the meat, forgetting to leave some to cook the onions in. Hmmmph. Tough.

Despite the long ingredient list and the mistakes that come from not reading the recipe the night before cooking, the dish is really easy and once the initial steps are done, it just sits in the oven for a couple of hours. Here goes;

Ingredients - AWT says that this will only serve 4 but it will serve 6, very easily.
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp ground black pepper
1½ tbsp paprika
1½ tbsp ground ginger
1 tbsp turmeric
2 tbsp ground cinnamon
1kg of stewing beef, or lamb, cut into chunks
2 large onions, sliced
olive oil, for frying
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
570ml/1 pint tomato juice
2 x 400g tinned chopped tomatoes
115g/4oz dried apricots, cut in half
55g/2oz dates, cut in half
55g/2oz sultanas or raisins
85g/3oz flaked almonds
1 tsp saffron stamens, soaked in cold water
600ml/1 pint beef stock
1 tbsp clear honey

So, THE NIGHT BEFORE YOU WANT TO EAT THIS YOU NEED TO MARINATE THE MEAT!  Measure out all the spices (cayenne, black pepper, paprika, ginger, turmeric and cinnamon) and mix together in a bowl. Then toss the meat in HALF of this spice mix and save the rest for cooking with the onions. Cover the meat and leave in the fridge overnight.

The next day pre-heat the oven to 150C then heat some olive oil in a large casserole dish and fry off the onions on a gentle heat along with the spices. When the onions are softened add the garlic and fry for a couple of minutes. Meanwhile heat some oil in a frying pan and brown off the meat. Then add that to the casserole dish. You then need to get the spices and meat juices from the frying pan to the casserole, so de-glaze the pan with a quarter pint of the tomato juice and pour that into the casserole.

Then you just stick everything else in, bring it to the boil and cook in the oven for two to two and a half hours.

I served it with cous cous, salad, char-grilled aubergine slices and roasted peppers. The roasted peppers were a bit fiddly and you don't get much, but they are worth the hassle. I took 3 peppers, chopped them in half, removed the seeds, brushed with oil and roasted for half an hour in an oven on full, until they were blackened, placed them in a plastic bag until cool and then peeled the skins. Word of warning... 3 peppers = one small ramekin of roasted peppers. So make sure you do loads!

Mission accomplished. All served on time and I'd even managed to have a couple of glasses of wine whilst the tagine was cooking. Brilliant. It all went down well too. The tagine is a lovely warming dish, the spices come through and the fruit lifts the dish. Not quite as good as a weekend away in Marakesh (where it is currently 15C at night), but it's as close as I'm gonna get at the moment. There was plenty and we both stuffed ourselves silly! My friend really enjoyed the aubergines, never really cooking with them before, hopefully she will now!


  1. Well, even after the less than positive remark about the washing up I can't deny that it certainly is a lovely dish. The beef worked nicely with the rich, fruity sauce. I believe that the appropriate term in Marakesh would be بنين (delicious)!