A sunny stew: lamb, apricot and chickpea tagine

This lamb, apricot and chickpea tagine is the perfect February dish. Not only is it great for those craving some sunshine and spice as well as a warming stew, the timing is just right to get your mits on really flavoursome lamb. The animals we have in the shops from January-Easter are a bit older than new season lamb (available from Easter), which means they’ve had lots of grass and hay since they were born last Spring. this gives the meat bags of flavour and a good fat content – making it brilliant for slow cooking.

Bella's tagine

Serves 5-6

Ingredients

1.5kg diced, boneless lamb shoulder

2tsp smoked paprika

2tsps ground cumin

1tsp powdered garlic

1tsp powdered celery

Pinch of saffron threads

4-5 tbsp sunflower or vegetable oil

2 medium onions, diced

1 clove of garlic, finely diced

500ml chicken stock (you can also use a lamb stock cube, we won’t tell)

250g dried apricots

1 x 400g can of chopped tomatoes

1 x 400g can of chickpeas, drained rinsed

 

To serve

300g couscous

2tbsp olive oil

Small handful of chopped fresh mint

Greek style yoghurt

 

  1. In a small bowl, combine half the sunflower or vegetable oil and all of the ground spices, and give it a good mix. Pour the mix over the lamb, coating the meat well and evenly with a good stir. Cover and leave in the fridge overnight or for 24 hours.
  2. Heat 2tbsp of oil in a large heavy-based frying pan and brown the meat in batches. You want to quickly brown the surface, but not actually cook the meat. Set the browned meat to one side.
  3. Turn the heat down and in the same pan gently fry the onions and garlic for 5-8 minutes, in the marinade and meat juices, until soft and slightly golden. Add the chopped tomatoes and saffron and stir thoroughly.
  4. Pour the onion and tomato mix into a tagine pot or large saucepan and add the lamb, stock, apricots and plenty of salt and pepper, cover and simmer gently (either over a low heat on the stove or at 150°C in the oven) for 45-60 minutes giving the occasional stir.
  5. After the first hour or so, add the chickpeas to the pot and cook for another 30 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, put the couscous in a heatproof bowl and add boiling water as instructed on the packet. Once the water is absorbed, add salt and pepper, 1-2 tbsp of olive oil and the mint and combine well.
  7. Take the tagine off the heat, taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary, and serve over the couscous with a dollop of yoghurt on top.