A versatile hero in the kitchen, dates can be used in dishes both sweet and savoury. Try this lamb and date tagine for a winter meal that’s packed full of flavour.
Lamb, date and apricot tagine with herbed couscous
2 tsp Moroccan spice mix (also known as ras el hanout)
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
3 Tbsp olive oil
1kg boneless lamb shoulder, excess fat trimmed and cut into 5cm cubes
2 medium brown onions
20 strands of saffron
2 cinnamon sticks
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup toasted whole blanched almonds
Salt and pepper, to season
3/4 cup dried apricots
3/4 pitted dates
3/4 cup water
2 Tbsp honey
1/2 tsp ras el hanout
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups dried couscous
2 1/4 cups vegetable stock
1/2 tsp salt
3 Tbsp salted butter
2 Tbsp finely chopped coriander leaves and stems
2 Tbsp finely chopped parsley leaves
In a mixing bowl, combine two teaspoons of Moroccan spice blend, ground ginger, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and mix well.
Add the lamb pieces and massage the spice paste into the lamb for a few minutes.
Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a tagine or heavy based sauté pan and once hot, add the lamb pieces. Cook the lamb pieces until browned.
Halve the onions and slice into 0.5cm pieces. Add to the browned meat and allow to simmer of medium heat until the onions become translucent.
Add the saffron, cinnamon sticks and vegetable stock. Mix well and bring the sauce to the boil. Once boiling reduce the heat to a gentle simmer, cover and cook the lamb for 2 hours. If needed, add a few tablespoons of water to the lamb if there is not enough liquid during cooking.
Whilst the lamb is cooking, make the fruit compote by adding all the ingredients into a saucepan and bringing to the boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and continue to cook until the fruit compote is left with 2 tablespoons of liquid. Remove from the heat and set aside.
In the last 15 minutes of the lamb cooking, mix the fruit compote gently with the lamb pieces. Remove the lid and cook uncovered for the last 15 minutes on a vigorous simmer until the sauce slightly thickens. After 15 minutes, remove from the heat, cover and leave to rest for 10 minutes.
Whilst the lamb is resting prepare the couscous. Combine stock, butter and salt and heat until boiling. Stir until melted. Add the couscous and mix well in the hot stock. Cover tightly and leave for the grains to absorb for 5 minutes.
After 5 minutes, fluff the couscous grains with a fork and stir through the chopped herbs. Place in a serving platter.
Garnish the lamb tagine with the toasted whole blanched almonds and serve hot with the couscous.
Recipe by MasterChef Alumni Amina Elshafei for Australian Lamb.
Looking for more winter cooking inspiration? Click here to dip into the Canberra Weekly recipe archives – happy cooking!