We’ve really felt the sharp bite of winter up here this last week and with temperatures not making it into double digits again, I wouldn’t have been at all surprised if it had snowed. Winter produce is often a bit humdrum – there is only so much you can do to turnips to make them interesting – but the one thing that is really bountiful this year is citrus fruit. Thanks to the great rains we have had in the last season our lemon and orange trees, and the citrus trees of anyone I speak to, are quite literally groaning with fruit. I’ve given away bags of lemons – unfortunately not soon enough to prevent several boughs from snapping from the weight of the fruit.
I love seeing the brightness of the yellow and orange fruit in the otherwise fairly stark winter garden and recall a comment made to me some years ago by the mother of a friend who was visiting from England. Visiting us with her daughter, the mother looked out of the window and exclaimed how odd it looked to see the fruit hanging off the trees then turned and asked me if they were real! I laughed at the time and was grateful to be reminded that we can sometimes take our easy access to a wide variety of foods for granted.
Last year I posted a recipe for making preserved lemons, which can be quite costly to buy but are a fantastic thing to have handy. We are looking forward to yet more cold and damp weather so I have dug out a fragrant and warming tagine recipe from Nigel Slater’s “Tender | Volume II” for you to knock together this weekend. A simply perfect use for preserved lemons. I’d serve this with either couscous or rice.
Tagine of Lamb with Apricots
- 1 kg diced lamb shoulder
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 2 tsp ground turmeric
- 1 tbsp sweet paprika
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 3 chopped onions
- 4 cloves garlic, finely sliced
- 60 gms sultanas
- 2 tbsp honey
- 1 good pinch of saffron
- 750 mls stock
- 2 475 gm cans chopped tomatoes
- 175 gms dried apricot halves
- 1 preserved lemon
- 1 bunch coriander
- 1 bunch mint
- Toss the cubed lamb in half of the spices and leave for at least 4 hours, or overnight if possible.
- Next day, heat olive oil and brown lamb in batches and set aside.
- Add onions, garlic and the remaining spices to the oil and saute gently until soft and just golden.
- Add sultanas, honey,saffron, stock, tomatoes and apricots, then return the meat to the pan, bring to the boil and season with salt and pepper.
- Cover with a lid, place in an oven preheated to 160C and cook for 2 1/2 hours.
- Remove and discard the pulp from the lemon and chop the skin roughly, then stir into tagine.
- Remove the meat, boil the sauce over high heat until it is reduced, return meat and stir in the fresh herbs.
I have made some slight variations on Nigel Slater’s original recipe. I have subbed dried apricots for fresh and reduced his very extravagant 1 teaspoon of saffron to a good pinch. He might buy his saffron by the kilo – I sure as hell don’t! I’d also be inclined to leave the lemons out until I put the fresh herbs in.
Preparation time: 10 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 4