Friday, March 21, 2008

A Cookbook a Week: Modern Moroccan

Next on the shelf: Modern Moroccan: Ancient Traditions, Contemporary Cooking by Ghilli Basan. Love this cookbook! A few years ago, I went on a big Moroccan cooking kick. Preserved lemons (so easy to do at home), ras al hanout (Richard Blaise's favorite spice on this season's Top Chef), and a tagine (Le Creuset, natch.) To get me up to speed, I relied on two cookbooks -- a Paula Wolfert book (next on the shelf) and this one, an updated contemporary style of Moroccan cooking. It's become a favorite. It even has the recipe for hash balls, oh, excuse me sesame-coated majoun. (The same author has also done a book on Indonesian and Philippino cooking I'm delving into currently.)

I'm having a few people over before we head to Roller Derby tomorrow night, and thought I'd make a lamb tagine my favorite way with honey and golden raisins, garlic and ginger. Tagines can be incredibly forgiving. (The name applies both to the dish -- a stew like braise of meat and veggies -- as well as the traditional cone shaped cooking pot used to make it.) One can add almost any combination of meat and veg, create a thick sauce to finish, and serve over couscous or with pita bread. Since some people may want more than others, I'm going to make this dish tomorrow afternoon and let folks help themselves. I'll also add a plate of olives, dried fruit, nuts, and cheese.

So, here's the Tagine of Lamb (with a few modifications from my own notes)

approx 2 1/4-2 1/2 pounds boneless shoulder of lamb, trimmed and cubed
2-3 tbsp sunflower oil (I use EVOO)
1 oz fresh root ginger, peeled and chopped
pinch of saffron threads
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 onion finely chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 1/2 cups pitted prunes soaked for 1 hour (I use golden raisins)
2 tbsp clear honey (or more to taste)
salt and pepper
I also often add a cup of cashews to this dish

Harissa -- the spicy Moroccan chili paste -- on the side

Put the meat in a flameproof casserole, tagine, or heavy pan on the stove top. Add the oil, ginger, saffron, cinnamon, onion, garlic, and seasoning, then pour in enough water to cover. Heat until simmering, cover with a lid, and simmer gently for at least two hours, topping up with water as necessary. Drain the prunes (or raisins) and add them to the tagine. Stir in the honey and simmer for a further 30 minutes or until the sauce is reduced. This is a great make-ahead dish as you can hold it on the stove until you're ready to finish the sauce. Serve on its own or over couscous.


Anonymous said...

Harissa has come up twice in two days, for me -- I wasn't previously familiar, but Last Night's Dinner featured it on (1) halibut with couscous, and (2) eggs/toast in yesterday's post, here:

Last Night's Dinner

Brendan said...


I'm not familiar with Gillie Basan's cookbooks, but I've traveled to Indonesia before and while the food there is extraordinary, I've usually found Indonesian cookbooks available here extremely disappointing. If that turns out to be the case with Basan's book, don't give up! If you're digging into Southeast Asian cooking, I cannot recommend highly enough a cookbook by Terry and Christopher Tan called Shiok! (available on Amazon). This is one of the cookbooks I use most frequently, and unlike James Oseland's Cradle of Flavor (which got lots of favorable press a year or two ago), it's a very approachable book for the home cook. (Cradle of Flavor is extremely good, too--but I class it with Lord Krishna's Indian Vegetarian Cuisine; fantastic book, but you have to PLAN before using it). Anyway, hope that tagine worked out (sure sounded good). Did the roller girls win?

braingirl said...

Brendan, thanks for the recommendations. Cradle of Flavor has been on my list for a while.

The tagine worked out perfectly -- I've made it many times before but this was one of the best. And alas, our Naptown Roller Girls lost. Boo!