Persian Lamb Tagine, Saffron, Dates
with Rhubarb, orange & mint – the wonderfully sticky texture of this dish has its roots in Arabic Bedouin tradition but, I’ve taken influence from Persia for perfumed flavour and nutty crunch. The rhubarb, orange salad really helps cut through the sweet richness of the dish. I’m really pleased with it and you will be too.
What you need
Ingredients for the lamb:
1 tbsp light olive oil
450g onions (2 medium ones), chopped to chunky dice
Spices: 2tsp black peppercorns, freshly ground then add 1 tsp turmeric powder, 2 tsp cinnamon
1 kg stewing lamb, chopped into good-sized chunks (7cm cubes or so)
15g fresh ginger, finely grated
700ml water, as directed below
250g best dates, stoned. Chop half the dates into chunky slices and leave the rest whole
1 tbsp runny honey
2 tsp orange blossom water
Splash olive oil
1 tsp butter
Small handful blanched almonds and pistachios, shelled
Small handful flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked off their stalks and fresh mint, big leaves (torn), little leaves left whole
Rhubarb, Orange Salad Ingredients:
1 green eating apple
Some olive oil for drizzling
450g rhubarb, chopped into 3-inch batons on the diagonal
1 lemon, juice freshly squeezed
1 tbsp runny honey
2 small oranges
¼ preserved lemon, finely diced (optional but well worth finding)
2 green cardamom pods, seeds only, ground to a fine powder
A small handful of picked mint leaves, bigger leaves (torn)
How to make it
- Grab a large heavy-bottomed casserole, add the butter and oil, place on medium heat, add the onions, salt stir around and gently fry until they’re soft and nutty brown, about 10 to 12 minutes
- Pop in the meat, the spices, grated ginger and stir to combine everything, then pour in the water, stir again
- Turn up the heat, bring to the boil, allow to bubble for 30 seconds or so, then turn down the heat to a gentle simmer, pop the lid on and allow to gently bubble until meltingly soft, about 1½ hours
- Take off the lid, add the dates, honey, stir and continue to cook at a good bubble, lid off, stirring occasionally for another 30 to 40minutes until the meat is tender, the sauce sticky and unctuous
- (This is a good time to make the Rhubarb, Orange salad, see below)
- Meanwhile, in a small fry pan, melt the butter in the oil on medium heat add the nuts and fry gently until lightly brown, tossing and stirring them as you go. Spoon the nuts out of the pan, keep warm and set aside.
- Take the casserole off the heat, sprinkle in the orange water, stir through, scatter with the herbs, then the nuts, take straight to table and serve with my rhubarb and orange salad.
Rhubarb, Orange Salad:
- Turn your oven to 200°C
- Over a plate to catch the juice, take an orange, top and tail it, sit it on its flat fresh cut surface, then slice off its skin and pith, lie on its side and cut into thin discs, retaining the juice, pips removed and discarded. Repeat for the other orange
- Take the apple, core and peel it, cut in half, then place flat surface down on your chopping board and cut into thin slices, about 3mm thick
- Pop the apple slices onto a baking tray, coat lightly with olive oil and roast for 10min
- Take the tray out, pop on the rhubarb, drizzle with a little more oil, the lemon juice, honey and return to the oven for another 12 minutes until the rhubarb is just soft, but still holds its shape.
- Take the fruit from the oven and allow to cool on the tray.
- Arrange the orange slices on a serving platter, place the apple slices, rhubarb over and around the oranges, mix the retained orange juice with the roasting juices, drizzle over the salad, then scatter on the preserved lemon pieces, sprinkle on the cardamom powder and finally the mint.
- Cover the plate with cling film and pop in the fridge until it’s time to serve.