Lamb Tagine with Dried Cherries & Almonds

This whole recipe came about because I spotted dried cherries in my local Sainsbury’s, and immediately thought how amazing they would be in a rich lamb tagine. At this time of year, you can’t beat a lovely slow-cooked stew for warming you up, and this will definitely do the trick. The lamb is incredibly tender after two hours of gentle cooking, the cherries plump up and become deliciously juicy, and the whole thing is flavoured with saffron and cinnamon, and topped with feta, fresh oregano and almonds. Serve with fluffy couscous and lots of naan bread for mopping up the sauce.

A quick note – I used a tagine to cook this, but if you haven’t got one, you could easily just cook it in a heavy casserole dish of the type that goes on the hob.

Ingredients

About 200g lamb neck fillet
1 large onion
2 fat garlic cloves
50g dried cherries
Cinnamon
A small pinch of saffron
Cumin
About 400ml lamb stock
Salt & black pepper
For the couscous:
120g couscous
A pinch of salt
A splash of lemon juice
A splash of olive oil
To serve:
A small handful of fresh oregano
A handful of almonds, flaked or chopped
Feta cheese
Naan bread

Serves 2

This dish needs a good long while to cook, but it’s really easy to prepare, so don’t be put off. Start by finely dicing the onion and garlic, and frying gently in olive oil. Once it’s started to soften, add a good sprinkling of cumin and a smaller sprinkling of cinnamon, and fry for a few more minutes, making sure the onion doesn’t start going crispy.

In the meantime, cut the lamb into bite-sized pieces and arrange in the bottom of the tagine, in a single layer, with the dried cherries. Make up the lamb stock with boiling water, and add a pinch (about five strands) of saffron. Stir well and leave to sit for a few minutes.

When the onions are ready, layer them on top of the lamb, and then gently pour in enough of the stock to just cover the other ingredients – don’t be tempted to add too much, as you don’t want the end result to be too watery. Keep any leftover stock just in case you need to add a little more. Bring to the boil and then put the lid on, turn the heat right down, and leave for two hours. If you’re using a tagine, you shouldn’t need to add any more liquid as the shape is designed to hold the liquid in, but keep an eye on it.

When the two hours are nearly up, prepare the couscous – simply measure it out into a bowl and just cover with boiling water. Put a plate or a lid on top for a few minutes until all the water has been absorbed, then fluff it up with a fork and add a splash of lemon juice, a splash of olive oil and a pinch of salt.

To prepare the naan breads, you can just pop them in the oven as instructed, but I like to jazz them up a bit by brushing them with olive oil and sprinkling with dried oregano. I then cook them pretty hot (about 220°C, or 200°C fan) for about ten minutes, so that they’re a bit crisp on the outside but still soft on the inside.

To serve, dish up the couscous with the deliciously fragrant tagine ladled over it, and then top with crumbled feta, fresh oregano and almonds. Wash down with a glass of red wine.