Happy new year! I hope you all had a marvellous Christmas and rang in 2011 with a giant smile on your face and booze in your belly! I was in Copenhagen for new year with my boy and we had a super time. The Danes, it turns out – as well as being gorgeous, welcoming and lovely – frickin’ adore fireworks. From about 2pm on new year’s eve, Copenhagen was a cacophony of whizzes and bangs, building to a crescendo at midnight when, hanging out on the waterfront, puffing away on a cigar and sipping Asti from a bottle, all hell was let lose, fireworks exploded e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e and I thought I was going to lose an eye or two. Exhilarating, if not frankly terrifying, fun!
But it’s the new year now which means a few terrible, horrible things: I’m broke, on a poxy diet and all the streets are peppered with abandoned Christmas trees: mwwarrggh. Thankfully, I get to distract myself with the lovely gifts I received on the 25th and boy was I lucky. Known as a ganet, I got lots of lovely things for the kitchen: a snazzy pinny, lovely new cookbooks, beautiful knitted cupcakes, a subscription to Olive magazine and a tagine. Such fun!
Tonight was Tagine night and I decided on a lamb and apricot bobbydazzler, with enough for dinner and for tomorrow’s packed lunch. Smug, moi?
To buy (for 4 portions):
*125g dried apricots *90ml orange juice *75ml boiling water *big glug or two of olive oil *knob of butter *450g diced lamb *1 red pepper *1 sweet onion *2 medium sweet poatoes *2 cloves garlic *half a tsp of ground cinnamon *1 tsp ground cumin *1 tsp Ras el hanout *125ml dry red wine *500ml chicken stock *1 tablespoon honey *big handful of fresh coriander leaves *yoghurt and cous cous to serve
1. Combine the apricots, juice and hot water in a small bowl, cover and leave for about 45 minutes.
2. Heat a glug of oil in a deep pan and cook the lamb in batches until browned all over and then set aside.
3. Heat some more olive oil in the same pan and cook the finely chopped garlic, roughly chopped onion, roughly chopped pepper and chunks of sweet potato, along with the ground spices. It should start to smell and look beautiful.
4. Stir until the onion softens and then add the wine. Bring to the boil and simmer uncovered for about five minutes, or until the liquid is reduced by half.
5. Return the lamb to the pan with the undrained apricots, stock and honey. Bring to the boil and cook for about 10 minutes to reduce the liquid, whilst you heat the oven, to about 180Oc/160Oc fan.
6. Pop the contents of the pan into a clean tagine and cook in the oven for at least an hour. The meat and vegetables should be soft and tender and your mouth should be watering like crazy!
7. When you’re ready to serve sprinkle some ripped up fresh coriander on top of the tagine and serve with some plain yoghurt and buttery cous cous.
Lovely after a long, cold walk in Battersea Park but would taste gorgeous any day, I daresay. Yum.