This is the sort of dish that is at once exotic and comforting.
The warm spices and sweet apricots taste of Morocco, with its mountains of spices and sticky almond croissants and endless thimbles of syrupy mint tea. And yet a bowl of this is also exactly the kind of thing that should be eaten with a spoon, preferably in pyjamas, at home. Don’t get me wrong, it would also make an awesome centrepiece for an informal dinner party (and the leftovers taste even better the next day) – it’s just that the restorative properties of this are so great that I believe everyone should have neat little portions stowed in their freezer to be called on when the going gets tough. Like care packages to your future self.
Two more things to convince you that you should probably make this ASAP:
1. You don’t need a tagine pot – unless you’ve got the real deal, a large saucepan with the lid on does the trick well enough as long as you keep an eye on moisture levels.
2. Please don’t be scared by the long-ish list of ingredients – it’s half spices, many of which you will find in your cupboard if you’ve ever made anything resembling a curry and all of which are easy to source (in the UK).
This colourful and nutritious dish is simple to make and well worth the wait: satisfying chunks of squash, sweet bursts of apricot and cubes of spiced lamb that melt in your mouth. Top with a generous dollop of the zesty mint and coriander yoghurt to make the flavours sing.
Lamb & butternut squash tagine with zingy herb yoghurt
For the tagine:
– 4 tablespoons olive oil
– 1 1/2 onions, diced
– 3 cloves garlic, crushed
– thumb fresh ginger, finely chopped
– pinch cayenne
– 1 teaspoon cinnamon
– 1 cinnamon stick
– 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, crushed (or powdered cumin)
– 1 teaspoon coriander seeds, crushed (or powdered coriander)
– 1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric
– 600g lamb leg, cut into approx. 1 inch cubes
– 1 tin chopped tomatoes
– 500ml chicken stock
– 500g butternut squash (about 1/2 a large squash), cut into 1 inch cubes
– 150g dried apricots, diced
For the zingy herb yoghurt:
– small bunch fresh coriander (plus extra to garnish), leaves finely chopped
– small bunch fresh mint (plus extra to garnish), leaves finely chopped
– juice & zest 1/2 unwaxed lemon
– 200g Greek yoghurt
– 2 tablespoons olive oil
– 240g cous cous (quinoa is a good gluten-free alternative)
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Heat the oil in a deep ovenproof pan on a medium heat and sweat the onions for 5-10 minutes until they’re starting to turn soft and translucent, being careful not to brown them. Add the garlic, ginger and spices and cook for another minute or two.
Turn up the heat and brown the lamb. Tip: Make sure the heat is high enough to seal the lamb – it should only take a few minutes. If the heat’s too low, all the juices will run out and your lamb might end up on the dry side.
Add a pinch of salt, a few grinds of black pepper, the tomatoes and stock, give it all a good stir and put the lid on. Bring to the boil and then transfer to the oven for 90 minutes.
To make the yoghurt, mix all the ingredients together in a bowl (don’t forget to set aside a little mint and coriander to garnish) and pop in the fridge to chill.
After 90 minutes, stir the squash and apricots into the tagine (you can also add any chopped coriander stalks you have leftover from the yoghurt at this point) and return to the oven for another 30 minutes or so, until the lamb is really tender and the squash is cooked through but not yet mushy. Tip: It is also a good idea to check the liquid after 90 minutes – if it’s getting dry, add a splash of water.
A few minutes before the tagine is ready, prepare the cous cous (or quinoa) according to instructions.
Serve topped with the remaining ‘erbs. Tip: Don’t forget to remove the cinnamon stick before serving!
Source: Recipe and photos by pip & little blue.