Tuesday, 22 May 2012

A fruity goat tagine

By now you're probably aware how much I love goat meat. It's not eaten just in Greece, but all round the Med - I've never quite managed to erase the memory of the sight of a row of skinned kids' heads lined up on a butcher's stall when on a stroll through the Arab market in Jerusalem's walled old city. Their eyes were blue and, like the Mona Lisa's, they seemed to follow me as I walked past. Creepy eyes aside, I'm sure the heads were delicious when cooked.

No heads for needed for this recipe, just some diced shoulder. And don't be put off by the long list of ingredients - this is simplicity itself to make. It takes just 5-10 minutes to prep. Makes enough for two portions, so you can eat one and freeze one.

What you need:  
A good glug of olive oil
About 300g goat meat, cubed
1 onion, chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed
About 3/4 pint chicken stock
1 orange, juiced and zested
Piece of cinnamon stick, about 3cm
Piece of fresh ginger, about 2cm, peeled and very finely chopped
Half a preserved lemon, finely sliced
Handful of pitted green olives
Handful of dried apricots
Handful of finely chopped fresh mint leaves
2 dessert spoonfuls of ground almonds
About a dessert spoonful of flaked almonds
Seasoning
A little chopped coriander

What to do: 
Using a heavy sauteuse, brown the goat in the olive oil over a high heat then scoop it out and set aside while you fry off the onions and garlic in the same oil until translucent and giving off aroma. Return the meat to the pan and pour in the stock, plus the orange zest and juice, cinnamon stick, ginger, preserved lemon and green olives. Grind in some black pepper. Turn down the heat until it's just simmering and leave for about 2 hours. (You can transfer it to the oven if you prefer - about 160C.) Check on it occasionally and top up with boiling water if it looks like it might dry out.

After 2 hours, add the apricots, mint and ground almonds, stir through and let it cook for another half an hour or so. The meat should be tender by now and the juices thickened by the almonds. If the meat's not quite ready, just cook it a while longer - it won't spoil.

Season to taste, stir in the flaked almonds and scatter over the coriander then dish up with some cous-cous and a side salad of tomatoes, cucumber and mint dressed with a little olive oil and lemon juice.

Cook's tips:
If you can't get goat meat, use mutton - it'll need about the same cooking time, but be sure to trim off the fat first. If you use lamb, it will only need about an hour to 90 minutes in total to cook.

Tagines are very flexible - if you don't have any apricots, use some dried figs or dates. Black olives can be used instead of green.

If you freeze a portion, do it before you add the flaked almonds and coriander.

Cous-cous doubles in size when it's ready so measure out about half of what you want to eat. Dump it in a heatproof bowl and cover with the same amount of boiling water. Put a plate over the bowl to trap the heat and steam and leave it for 5 minutes. It should have fluffed up - fork it through to break up the grains. If it looks too dry, add a little more water and leave for another minute or so (it's better to have too little water and top up than too much, which will make it soggy). If you have leftover cous-cous, cover it with cling film and chill in the fridge - it makes a good base for a salad.