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Monday, 30 January 2012

Mirjami Design Tagine

It's been a long time since I've been here, sorry. And the warmest welcome to the new readers! Not much to read, but hey – maybe the New Year will bring new changes and I will write more.

These days my favourite thing to do on Sundays is to cook. To prepare a roast or a casserole, have a tipple or two of wine and let the cooking dissolve all the stress of the week. Perfect.

My all time favourite used to be a roast chicken or lamb and then to make a delicious curry from the left overs, very yummy.

However, a couple of weeks ago we discovered the magical tagine and now the Sundays are all about tagine, tagine, tagine!!! Love it and couldn't rate it more highly!

As I was getting the initial stages of tagine cooking I smiled to myself of the realisation how it resembles all a bit too much of Mirjami Design!  We got instructions to cook our tagine from Larry at the Golden Fleece in Stroud and lamb is now our definite favourite.

The basics are these: pour a good lug (a lot and lot) of olive oil to the bottom of tagine and then cover the bottom with a layer of onions followed by marinated meat and a pickled lemon. Let it to cook slowly for a couple of hours and then add your vegetables and carry on cooking for another hour or so. And there you are – the most simple, but the most delicious meal!!!

So as I was layering the bottom of the tagine with sliced up onions I thought this is just like my business and all the work involved. Larry who gave us the recipe, calls the layer of onions "the sacrifice", because the onions will protect the meat when cooked so that if anything gets burned it will be the onions. Poor onions :(
It made me think how many things I have sacrificed to get my business running....

However if the tagine is well looked after, making sure the heat is not too strong and it is left alone unrushed, the onions will only get dark brown and caramelised adding the most amazing flavour to the whole dish. If rushed the result will be a burned bitter mess.
So a good solid foundation is the key....

Then I thought about the meat. The best is if you can marinate it a night before. Again the key is not to rush it, but also choose your spices well and use good quality meat. It might be more expensive now, but what a difference it makes in the end.
The good ingredients make always a better result....

Also what is added this stage is a pickled lemon. Cut it into a few segments and cover with meat. It will gently cook away, releasing lovely lemon flavor and in the end it will all dissolve only leaving the skin behind. Absolutely delicious! But if you put too much lemon in, the whole dish will taste a bit like lemon scented washing up liquid. (Not that I've tasted washing up liquid, but trust me this is what it would taste!)
So basically, don't over do it or you ruin the lot!

The next stage is to do nothing for a couple of hours. Maybe go and read a book, walk a dog, take a bath, do what ever you want to do, but don't disturb the tagine! Let it gently simmer and do what it is meant to do.
Sometimes it is so easy to over do things. And also, the best things comes for those who wait :)

After a couple of hours it is time to add vegetables. I used simply a humble butternut squash, a red chilly and whole garlic cloves, a pinch of salt and a generous bunch of fresh coriander. It is very tempted at this stage to pile up all sort of vegetables, but I think simplicity is the key. Otherwise the flavours will get lost and it is easy to forget what it was that you were making...

An other hour or so and voila – it is all ready! Perfectly cooked meat, surprises of succulent garlic cloves, tender squash and a hint of fiery chilly. Serve it with couscous and why not to add a few side dishes to bring out even more flavour from the main dish. Maybe make a cooling cucumber yogurt as a side dish. A piece of flat bread and hummus, maybe a few olives and the meal is fit for a King!

So simple and delicious, but it all must be planned ahead, use good ingredients, execute with love and cook slowly without rushing it through.

P.S. In no way this is a perfect authentic tagine recipe, but it works for me :)