As you all know, The Cookbook Guru is featuring Paula Wolfert’s The Food of Morocco for March and April and, I must say, I love the book. Paula Wolfert’s recipes usually take a bit of time to prepare but they are absolutely worth it. Today’s recipe is no exception. It was to die for.
I find many of the recipes in the book are perfect for dinner parties as they can easily be, and arguably are best, made a day ahead.
When I was making this dish, I was really worried that it was going to be too sweet but it was perfect. I was also concerned about the sauce used to caramelise the prunes. It was amazingly viscous. I have no idea why but I had fun playing with it. All was well in the end so, don’t worry, it will all come together.
One thing to note is the recipe called for one pound of unpitted large prunes (18-20 prunes). I used 20 of my own dried prunes which weighed much less than a pound. Twenty rehydrated commercial prunes would weigh more than mine as they would have more moisture in them. I would probably go with 20, no matter what they weigh. I don’t think it matters how many prunes you use. If you think 20 is too many, use less. The recipe calls for the prunes to be soaked for one hour. If you are using rehydrated commercial prunes, do not soak them.
I served the tagine with Moya’s (from Food and Tools) couscous with mint and pomegranate. I can highly recommend the recipe – it was fabulous. All in all, a very delicious dinner.
- 1.5 kg of lamb (The recipe said shoulder with bone in but I used butterflied leg of lamb) cut into 5 cm chunks
- 1 tbs* olive oil
- 2 tbs* butter
- 3 garlic cloves, crushed to a paste with 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbs* La Kama spice mixture (see below)
- 2 tbs* saffron water (see below)
- salt and black pepper
- about 20 unpitted prunes
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tbs* orange blossom water
- 3 tbs* sugar or 2 tbs* honey
- 1 cup blanched almonds, toasted**
- 1 tbs* sesame seeds, toasted**
La Kama spice mixture:
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- 1 tsp white pepper
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp cubeb pepper (optional). I couldn’t get any cubeb pepper so I decided to substitute for it. I read that it is similar to allspice but with a more peppery taste so I used about ⅜ tsp allspice and ⅛ tsp black pepper.
- a pinch of grated nutmeg
Combine spices in a small bowl. Set aside.
Pour 2 tbs* of boiling water over a pinch of saffron. Set aside.
*These are 15 mil tablespoons.
**To blanch the almonds: pour boiling water over them and leave for a few minutes, slip the skins off then lay them out on absorbent paper to dry.
To toast the almonds, put in a dry pan over low heat until golden, stirring all the while. Toast sesame seeds the same way.
- Soak the prunes in water for one hour. Set aside.
- In a tagine or casserole dish, combine the oil and 1 tablespoon* of butter, garlic, La Kama spice mixture, saffron water, ½ tsp salt and a pinch of pepper.
- Warm over low heat for a few minutes then add the meat and stir until the meat is nicely coated.
- Add 1 cup of water, bring to the boil, lower the heat, cover and simmer gently for 2½ hours or until the lamb is very tender – mine took a little less than 2½ hours.
- After 1 hour, transfer ¼ cup of the meat juices to a skillet, add the drained prunes, cinnamon, orange blossom water and sugar or honey, and cook slowly until the prunes are lightly caramelised, about 20 minutes. Remove the prunes from the skillet, leaving the syrupy juice behind.
- Add the remaining tablespoon of butter and another ¼ cup of the meat-cooking juices to the skillet and set aside.
- When the meat is tender, remove from the heat and separate the lamb from the cooking juices. Pour the meat juices into a jug and put in the fridge to cool.
- Reheat the prune juice and brown the drained lamb in the prune juice until glazed on all sides.
- Return the lamb to the tagine and add the prunes.
When ready to serve:
- Skim the fat off the meat juice and pour the juice over the meat and prunes.
- Decorate with toasted almonds and sesame seeds and serve.
If you liked this recipe you may also be interested in another post I have done: Claudia Roden’s Moroccan tagine with prunes and honey. Here is the link.