I Loooove a casserole! I really do! I also love to cook them as I get to assemble it earlier in the day and leave it work its magic until dinner time. They really are life savers especially after after school sports that finish right on dinner time and no one can wait another minute to eat once we walk in the door. They save my life….and many hungry tantrums!
Recently I was a little bit bored with cooking my regular ones so I decided to venture past my comfort zone and try a moroccan inspired tagine. Now with no experience in this cuisine or knowledge of flavour combinations I decided to adapt a recipe I had found by English chef, James Martin. I had actually bought some lamb neck the day before which was very handy and super tender in this recipe. On first glance I was a bit concerned that this cut of meat would ever break down into the soft, falling apart, melt in your mouth texture we expect from casserole meats. I can assure you….It did not disappoint!
Serving it with some char-grilled crunchy asparagus and flavour packed cous cous worked perfectly. Especially the cous cous, that so lovingly drank up the glorious juices from the tagine. Have play with your choice of fresh herbs and serving ingredients, but please don’t leave out the spice components! These are absolutely vital in getting the right flavour combination for this dish. The list of ingredients looks a bit daunting at first, I KNOW! Trust me! Its more than I am used to for everyday meals! But more than half are taken care of in the early parts of the tagine so there isn’t very much to assemble at the end. I usually have everything done early on, except for the asparagus which is pretty quick to whip up in less than ten minutes.
I hope you enjoy spicing up your after school or late night home from work casseroles!
- FOR THE TAGINE
- 1 tsp ras-el-hanout
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp ground ginger
- ½ tsp smoked sweet paprika
- ½ tsp ground cumin
- ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ tsp ground turmeric
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 800g - 1kg lamb neck fillet - cut into large chunks
- 1 onion, thickly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic - peeled & finely chopped
- 1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
- 2 tbsp runny honey
- ½ tsp saffron
- 350ml chicken stock (or enough to just cover the lamb mixture)
- 120g pitted dates - roughly chopped
- 100g green olives
- 70g whole almonds (optional)
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- FOR THE COUS COUS
- 1.5-2 cups cous cous
- Boiling water or hot chicken stock - enough to cover the cous cous
- ½ red onion - peeled & finely chopped
- 1 lemon
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large handful of chopped fresh flatleaf parsley
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- TO SERVE
- ¾ cup toasted flaked almonds
- 300g asparagus spears
- Olive oil
- ½ lemon - juice only
- salt and pepper
- To make the spice rub, mix together the, ras-el-hanout, ground cinnamon, ground ginger, smoked sweet paprika, ground cumin, freshly ground black pepper and ground turmeric together in a bowl.
- Add the lamb neck to the rub combine till evenly coated.
- In a large, hot pan, then add two tablespoons of the olive oil and sear the lamb pieces until they are golden-brown on all sides. Once done, remove lamb from the pan and set aside in a heat proof dish.
- Add two tablespoons of olive oil to the same pan on a medium to low heat and fry the onions and garlic until softened.
- Add the lamb pieces back to the pan as well as all of the remaining tagine ingredients.
- Turn the stove to a low heat and cover the pan with a lid. Allow the tagine to simmer softly for a minimum of 1.5 hours, or until the lamb is lovely and tender..
- Remove the lid after the long cook and allow to simmer for a further 30 minutes, until the sauce is slightly thickened. Season, to taste, if need be.
- While the sauce is in the thickening phase, place the dry cous cous into a medium sized heat proof bowl. Pour over boiling water or hot chicken stock until the liquid level just covers the top layer of cous cous. Use a large plate to cover the entire bowl so no steam can get through. Leave to sit there and work its magic for about 5-8 mins.
- In a medium serving bowl, assemble the remaining cous cous ingredients - chopped red onion, lemon juice, olive oil and herbs and mix well.
- Once the cous cous is cooked, fluff it with a fork, and add it to the above mixture.
- Taste and adjust seasoning as required.
- On a flat oven proof tray, scatter the flaked almonds in an even layer and toast until just turning golden brown. Remove from the oven once done and set aside.
- Heat a griddle pan or dry pan to high heat.
- Toss the asparagus spears in a tablespoon of olive oil and place into the pan.
- Move the asparagus around until it starts to char but make sure it still has a crunch to it. Remove and place in a serving dish, add a teaspoon of olive oil, a squeeze of half a lemon and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Once all your components are ready to go, its time to assemble!
- Divide the cous cous among the individual dinner plates, spoon over the lamb tagine, sprinkle with toasted almond flakes and lay the crunchy asparagus along side.