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Lamb Tagine With Fennel

Printed From: Foods of the World Forum
Category: Africa
Forum Name: North Africa
Forum Discription: Where Mediterranean and Arabic cuisines were married.
Printed Date: 03 April 2020 at 17:22

Topic: Lamb Tagine With Fennel
Posted By: HistoricFoodie
Subject: Lamb Tagine With Fennel
Date Posted: 05 December 2017 at 15:23
Recently I realized that the best deal around, in terms of size and cost, are the boneless lamb legs sold at Sam’s. While we do, occasionally, cook them as leg of lamb, more often I break them down. Typically, we get two dishes out of a leg, for a total of 12 servings plus a lunch or two.

My latest endeaver is this tagine, that came out of Paula Wolfert’s great classic, Couscous and Other Good Food From Morocco. If, perchance, you’re unfamiliar with her work, Ms Wolfert was in the forefront of the trend to globalize American cookery. The book---still considered one of the seminal works on the subject---was actually published in 1973.

At any rate, here is the recipe:

(Lamb Tagine with Fennel)

2 ½-3 lbs lamb, cubed     
1 garlic clove, crushed
Salt to taste     
½ tsp black pepper
¼ tsp ground ginger     
Pinch saffron, pulverized
¼ tsp turmeric     
¼ cup oil, or less     
2 tbls cilantro, chopped (optional)
½ cup grated onion
Up to 4 fennel bulbs (depending on size) sliced
¾-1 preserved lemon, rinsed     
½ cup “red” olives (Kalamata)
1/8 cup lemon juice

Trim excess fat from lamb. In a casserole or tajine, toss the lamb with the garlic, salt, spices, oil, herbs, and onion. Cover with 1 cup water and bring to a boil. Reduce the het, cover, and simmer over moderate heat for 1 ½ hours, turning the pieces of meat often in the sauce and adding water as necessary.

When the meat is almost tender, add the fennel and more water if needed. Cover and continue cooking until the lamb and fennel are done; the meat should be butter soft.
Meanwhile, quarter the preserved lemons and discard the pulp, if desired. Rinse and pit the olives. Add both to the casserole for the last 10 minutes of cooking. Stir in the lemon juice.

Place the lamb in the center of a serving dish. Arrange the fennel around the edges of the dish and decorate with lemon quarters and olives. By boiling rapidly, uncovered, reduce the sauce in the pan to a thick gravy, taste for salt, and pour over the lamb and fennel. Serve at once.

Interestingly, despite the recipe title, and despite the fact Wolfert is a leading proponent of clay cooking, she specifies the use of an enameled cast-iron or stainless steel casserole for this dish. I have no idea why, but ignored that instruction and used my new deep-cazuela instead. Worked out perfectly.

I sliced the fennel fairly thick, about 5/8” inch, and used a total of about 8 cups of the slices. I had considered using lamb stock instead of water---a habit I have with such dishes---but didn’t. Good thing, because it was unnecessary. Water worked just fine.

I had no cilantro on hand, so subbed with broad-leaf parsley.

I also believe this dish would work incredibly well with venison.

But we hae meat and we can eat
And sae the Lord be thanket

Posted By: TasunkaWitko
Date Posted: 05 December 2017 at 15:46
Nice recipe, Brook, and I can see it working well with venison. It looks like I'll be making some more preserved lemons before long:

About the lack of tajine or other earthenware in the recipe: I have no proof, but I wonder if it isn't because - at the time this was published - mention of a tajine (or even a cazuela) might have had most readers scratching their heads in bewilderment? The choice of cookware might have been an attempt to reach a wider, less-educated audience. This is just a guess, and not necessarily a correct one.

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Posted By: HistoricFoodie
Date Posted: 05 December 2017 at 18:25
A good guess, Ron, and one that makes sense. But---there's always a but---there are times when she specifies a tagine. Sometimes she specifies the use of a couscousiere, which is like hens teeth in the U.S. even today.

Most of the time, when a tagine is the obvious cooking vessel, she merely says something like "a flameproof casserole with a cover." This gives credence to your supposition. What got to me was the specification of either an enameled cast iron or stainless steel casserole. The former, while available, was very expensive (only Le Crueset offered them in the U.S. at the time), and the latter was hardly available. Aluminum was the common metal for pots and pans in those days. Stainless didn't begin to become popular until the late '80s.

IIRC---which may not be the case, as it was 45 years ago---when the word "casserole" was used, American housewives would have thought ceramic or glass.

Interestingly, by 2009, when her Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking came out, things had changed so much she didn't hesitate to specify the kind of clay pot which, like tagines, referred to both the pot and the dish cooked in it. I haven't actually counted, by there are at least a dozen such vessels referenced in the book.

That's where I first became aware of guvecs, for instance. It's also where I learned that a tian was a clay pot, as well as the name of the dish cooked in one.   

But we hae meat and we can eat
And sae the Lord be thanket

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