October 7th 2017
Today I cooked lamb tagine for my Mum and Dad. They’ve gifted us with a new sideboard/cupboard for our living room so I wanted to make them dinner to say thanks. And, because Alice was out all day, it was all down to me to cook dinner. It was suggested to me that I should try cooking Lamb Tagine, because it’s something I could prep in the morning and then just have cooking throughout the day, and then serve up when they arrived.
I went out this morning to source as many of the ingredients as possible from local suppliers. That’s one of the cool things about living in this part of the Cotswolds – all the shops are named after someone. I got the lamb from Jesse’s, the coffee from Keith’s and a haircut from Robert’s. (the coffee wasn’t one of the ingredients for the tagine) Anything I couldn’t get from town I got from this quaint little market on the outside of town called Tesco’s.
In Jesse’s Butcher’s I asked for a kilogram of lamb shoulder, because that’s what the recipe required. So, the butcher gave me a kilogram of lamb shoulder. I saw him packaging up the lamb shoulder and thought “I should probably ask him to cut that up for me” but something between anxiety and confidence prevented me. In one way, I didn’t want him to think that I was incapable, but on the other hand, I was fairly sure I could cut it up myself.
As any self-respecting millenial would, I went to YouTube for help.
I’m sure the results for “how to debone lamb shoulder” would’ve been helpful to someone with at least some sort of semblence of an idea of how to get started, but I really didn’t have a clue, so I just hacked out the pink bits and left the white bits behind. That seemed to work pretty well.
The first disaster of the evening came as soon as I started cooking. I phoned my Grandma last night to ask if I could borrow a large crockpot to cook my tagine in – I didn’t ask Mum because I didn’t want her to know what I was cooking.
My Grandad arrived at my house today at 9am sharp to drop off two crockpots. For reasons that are about to become clear, it was very fortunate that she’d had the foresight to send him up with two crockpots.
Apparently, you’re not supposed to put ceramic on the hob. Who knew? Did you know? I didn’t know. I’ve always seen my Mum cooking on the hob with this big blue ceramic-looking thing, and the recipe said “shallow-fry onions in casserole dish” so I thought I was supposed to use the pot.
It exploded. (yes, I stopped to take a photo before I cleared away the mess) Apparently you’re not supposed to put ceramic on the hob. The pot mum uses is cast-iron — which is just about as metallic as you can get.
If you’re reading this, Grandma, I owe you a casserole dish.
Fortunately, she’d sent up two casserole dishes. She’s a clever lady.
After that, I folowed the recipe (being sure to cook the ingredients in a frying pan before putting them in the oven-dish). A lamb tagine is effectively just chopped tomatos and a fuck load of different spices. Cinnamon, turmeric, cumin, cayenne pepper, paprika (which I didn’t have so I just used more cayenne pepper and cinnamon), garlic, pepper, ginger, honey, and saffron. Yes, I even splashed out the £2.50 for 4 little flecks of saffron. No messing around.
You chuck all of the spices in with the meat, onions, dried apricots, sultanas, and flaked almonds and just let it cook for the rest of the afternoon. (using the second dish that Grandma sent)
I was scared that I’d fucked it up to begin with, because right at the start of the 3 hour cooking time it tasted like crap. I’d put too much cinnamon in to begin with (I read ‘tsp’ as ‘tbsp’ and you can imagine the rest) and then when I didn’t have any paprika I put extra cayenne pepper in, so at the beginning it was just a smoky hot mess, and I was worried that eveyrone would hate it.
However, with each passing half hour of 150 degree C heat, it started to taste better. The spices mixed and infused, and by the time it was ready to be served it actually tasted pretty fucking good if you don’t mind me saying so.
First though, starters:
A classic mezze board selection of meats and cheeses, with falafel, rocket, sun dried tomatoes, olives, and lots and lots of balsamic vinegar. As usual, we filled up too much on the starter.
To accompany the tagine I boiled giant cous cous with a stock pot, cumin, turmeric and mixed herbs, and served it all up.
I think I nailed it.
The lamb just dissolved like butter on your tongue. It was beautiful. The spices mixed together perfectly, although there was the-difference-between-a-teaspoon-and-a-tablespoon too much cinnamon.
Most importantly, everyone seemed to enjoy it. And they were impressed that I was capable of cooking it. Let’s hope they don’t expect that kind of thing too often.
Mum was in charge of dessert, and she bought some homemade chocolate mousse/melt in the middle puddings that sounded delightful but flat out refused to cook properly, so we had to throw them away and run up the the petrol station to get a microwaveable fudge cake and some vanilla ice cream.
Until tomorrow, sorry about the pot, Grandma.