The blustery days of Autumn, blowing leaves in shades of burnt orange and gold make me happy. The mornings are crisp and clean. Walking barefooted out into our back yard early morning, the coffee cup in my hand steaming white puffs in the cool air and the moist dew against my feet give me that needed moment of serenity before I jump into my day.
In the horizon, beyond the houses and over the hills, the sun begins it’s rise for the day. It still feels slightly unusual at the late start it gets at this time of the year, but it rewards me with a spectacular blazing sky, colored in fire red and deep purple. It almost makes me forget the darker, gloomy Winter days looming ahead.
I feel inspired for the rest of the day and the colors of the season prompt me to create soothing and satisfying dishes infused with exotic spices and aromas.
When my friend gave me this homegrown pumpkin from her garden, it sat on my kitchen counter top for a few days. Each morning I looked at it as I poured my coffee and prepared breakfast for Soeren and me. Each day I had new plans for it.
A cake. Muffins. Salad. Roast it. Steam it. But then on one cool morning as I scraped the car free from the first frost of the season, my body yelled “a stew!”
At the time I was writing an article about exotic spices from around the world. One of these magnificent spices was Ras El Hanout. A wonderful box filled with this delicate was sitting in my cabinet, something I had picked up from my last trip to Dubai earlier this year. The recipe for the tagine began taking form as I drove Soeren to school that morning. By the end of the day I had more or less worked through the recipe and headed towards the market with my ingredient list.
Ras El Hanout
Literally, Ras El Hanout means "top of the shop" and is a Moroccan spice blend, which can contain more than 30 spices. It is a matter of honor for the Moroccan spice merchant to provide the most sought after blend of spices and there are stories of merchants creating custom blends of ras el hanout for special clients with ingredients that include hashish. The traditional blend however consists of the more conventional aromatic ingredients like coriander seeds, allspice, nutmeg, lavender and rose buds to name a few. Ras el hanout has a spicy kick, a floral fragrance and subtle nuances within an overall robust flavor. Extremely versatile, it can be used for chicken, lamb and vegetables, imparting its gorgeous golden color and enticing flavor to the dishes. Transcend an ordinary couscous with a sprinkling of ras el hanout or enhance a lamb roast with a ras el hanout spice rub - the difference will not go unnoticed.
Ras El Hanout added the perfect highlight for this tagine, complementing the flavors of the lamb, pumpkin and the sweetness of the apricots. You should be able to find ras el hanout in well sorted stores and spice shops. You can also have a go at making this aromatic spice mix yourself. The lovely Haalo from Cook Almost Anything Once has a great recipe for a homemade ras el hanout spice blend.
I do not have a typical tagine to cook the dish in instead I simply used a large casserole and it still offered all the lovely aromatic flavors.
Ras El Hanout Lamb Tagine with Pumpkin and Apricots
Printable version of recipe here
1 kg boneless lamb shoulder, cut into bite size chunks
2 onions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoons fresh ginger, finely chopped
2 teaspoon Ras El Hanout
2 cinnamon sticks
400 ml passata
350 g pumpkin, cut into chunks
175 g dried apricots
3 tablespoons olive oil
Handful coriander leaves, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper
- In a large, deep casserole heat the oil. Add the onions, then gently sauté until softened and transparent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the finely chopped ginger then add the meat in portions and fry on all sides until lightly colored. Return all the meat to the pan, stir in the ras el hanout and cinnamon sticks, then cook for 1 minute.
- Add the passata and about 300ml water and bring to the boil, stirring occasionally . Season with salt and pepper, then cover and simmer for approx 1.5 hours, until the lamb is tender and literally melts in your mouth.
- Add the pumpkin cubes, stir well, cover again, then cook for another 20 minutes or until the pumpkin cubes are just tender. Stir in the apricots and heat through for 5 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
- Serve immediately sprinkled with coriander leaves and bulgur.
The Food Guide :
- The healing properties of ginger
- Selecting and storing pumpkins
- Interesting facts about apricots
A delicate sprinkling of an exotic spice over a soothing dish will often take me away to a fantasy place in the deeper realms of my imagination. Here I was walking the spice bazaars of Casablanca and I swear I could literally smell the spicy scents filling the air and hear the shouts of the men in their shops tempting us to buy their colorful spices. As I served the tagine I am sure I was able to take my dinner guests on this trip with me too.
Plate to Page Workshop
The Plate to Page workshop will take place in Weimar, Germany from 20 – 23 May 2011.
From Plate to Page is an intensive hands-on food photography and writing workshop aimed primarily at food bloggers, writers and photographers like you . It provides an exciting opportunity for those of you looking to enhance and hone your photography and writing skills, both for your blog and for professional work.
We plan to provide you with a fresh new concept and trust me you will be working hard throughout the weekend. But we’ve also set aside some time for play and fun too. Check out our P2P Programme!
You might like these stews and soup from WFLH:
|Spiced Lamb and Pumpkin Goulash||Minestrone with Pesto||Tuscan Tomato and Bread Soup|
All photographs and written content on What's For Lunch, Honey? © 2006-2010 Meeta Khurana Wolff unless otherwise indicated. | All rights reserved | Please Ask First