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Lamb Tagine with Oranges, Saffron, and Candied Orange Peel

Lamb Tagine with Oranges, Saffron, and Candied Orange Peel


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Notes

*Note: Ras el hanout is commercially available, but a simplified bare-bones version can be prepared at home. Combine fenugreek, cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, coriander seeds, white pepper, long pepper, nutmeg, caraway, sesame seeds, rosemary, and saffron. Quantities of each vary greatly depending if you want a sweeter or hotter version, though either way use nutmeg and saffron sparingly. For a milder mix, replace the white pepper with star anise or licorice, and for added aroma, include some dried rosebuds or lavender.

The Indian spice garam masala is a good substitution, though it is often hotter, so reduce the amount slightly.

Ingredients

  • 1 Teaspoon unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 Teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 Teaspoon ras el hanout*
  • 1/2 Teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 Teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 Teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
  • Generous pinch of saffron
  • Salt, to taste
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 1/4 Pounds bone-in leg of lamb, cut into 8 or so pieces
  • 1 small cinnamon stick, broken in half
  • 1 medium-sized red onion, chopped finely
  • 2 3/4 Cups water, plus more as needed
  • 2 Tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 Teaspoon honey
  • 1 Valencia orange, scrubbed
  • 1/4 Cup sugar
  • 8 cloves
  • 1 Teaspoon sesame seeds, toasted, for garnish

Directions

In a tagine, flameproof casserole, or large, heavy skillet or sauté pan, combine the butter, ginger, ras el hanout, cinnamon, turmeric, white pepper, and saffron. Season with salt, to taste. Moisten with the olive oil and blend well. One by one, place the pieces of lamb in the spice mixture, and turn to coat. Add half of the cinnamon stick and scatter the onion across the top.

Place the tagine over medium heat, cover, and cook, turning the lamb occasionally, until the meat is browned and the onion is softened but not scorched, about 15 minutes. Add 1 cup of the water, cover loosely, and cook over medium-low heat for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add ½ cup of the water and 1 tablespoon of the orange juice and cook until the meat is tender, about 45 minutes. Add a bit more water if necessary to keep the sauce loose, or remove the lid to evaporate and thicken it. Stir in the honey and cook the lamb uncovered for a final 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel the orange, reserving the fruit. With a knife, scrape away some — but not all — of the white pith from the peel. Cut the peel into long, very thin strips about 1/8-inch wide.

In a small pan, bring ½ cup of the water to a boil. Add the strips of peel and a pinch of salt, and simmer for 2 minutes. Drain, discard the liquid, and rinse out the pan. Return the strips to the pan, cover with the remaining water, and bring to a boil. Stir in the sugar and add the remaining cinnamon stick and the cloves. Simmer until the liquid is syrupy and the strips of peel are tender but still a touch al dente, about 20 minutes. Stir in the remaining orange juice, remove from the heat, and let cool.

With a sharp knife, cut away any white pith from the reserved orange. Carefully cut along the membranes separating the segments and remove them. Lay the segments in a shallow bowl, spoon the syrup from the pan over the segments, and let soak until ready to serve.

To serve, divide the lamb among 4 plates, and top with the sauce, orange segments, and strips of caramelized peel. Lightly sprinkle with the sesame seeds.

Nutritional Facts

Servings4

Calories Per Serving691

Folate equivalent (total)71µg18%

Riboflavin (B2)0.6mg37.7%


Lamb Khoresh Stew with Orange Recipe

I know little about Persian cuisine. I do know it is a multifaceted one, that its flavors are refined and its roots run deep, but I have never been to an Iranian restaurant nor an Iranian home — though now that I think about it, one of the Middle Eastern groceries we went to in California may have been Iranian — so this Persian stew (that’s what khoresh means) was a foray into uncharted territory for me.

And as far as forays go, this lamb khoresh was positively thrilling: I don’t think I’ve ever cooked a stew so brightly flavored and so subtle.

What prompted me to make it was a little book I recently bought, called Petits Larcins culinaires (“culinary petty thefts,” but it sounds better in French). It is written by a well-known and very likable figure of the Parisian food scene, Claude Deloffre. Claude has a passion for (and a crazy-extensive collection of) cookbooks, and for a few years she ran a specialized bookshop/gallery on rue Charlot, called FOOD*. In this book, her first, she writes about her lifelong relationship with cookbooks and the ones that have meant the most to her, and she shares a few recipes “stolen” — hence the title — from her favorite authors.

As any successful anthology will, this one makes you want to go out and buy each and every one of the books she evokes — were it a website, it would have an “Order All” button — and among the recipes I flagged to try, one of them sprung forward with particular force: it was this Persian lamb stew, on page 63, which Claude simply introduces under the name Khoresh.

This lamb khoresh is a Persian dish of lamb slowly stewed in citrus juice, garnished with candied orange peel, mint, and pistachios.

I wasn’t familiar with the term, but the recipe itself — a dish of lamb stewed in citrus juice, garnished with candied orange peel, mint, and pistachios — sung to me like a mermaid. We were to have Pascale and her husband David over for dinner a few days later, and there was now little doubt about what I would serve.

I altered the recipe just a bit — I used a little less sugar and butter, but more vegetables and more meat, as the amount given seemed insufficient for six, and I added saffron — but overall, I followed Claude’s lead, and found the process easy and pleasurable.

We are at the tail end of the citrus season and the first new carrots are appearing, so now is the ideal time to try this. And if it seems a little supererogatory to candy your own orange peel, I hope I can persuade you to do it anyway: the crisp, caramelized strands sit at the juncture between the sweet, the savory, and the bitter, thus summing up the different facets of this dish and acting as the perfect garnish.

About the cinnamon I use

I am in love with the fresh cinnamon I order from Cinnamon Hill, a small company that specializes in sourcing and selling the highest-quality, freshest cinnamon from Sri Lanka and Vietnam (ordinary cinnamon usually comes from China or Indonesia). I get whole sticks, and grate them with the beautifully crafted (and highly giftable!) cinnamon grater that Cinnamon Hill has designed. Truly, you don’t know what cinnamon tastes like until you’ve tried freshly harvested, freshly grated, top-grade cinnamon, and it makes an amazing difference in this recipe.

* She eventually had to close FOOD cookbook fans in Paris now turn to La Librairie Gourmande to fill their needs.


Candied Orange Peel Lamb Shanks, Khoresht-e-Portaghal

Wishing everyone a Happy Easter in advance with a Persian-influenced lamb dish. This is based on Khoresht-e-Portaghal a Persian meat-based stew made with oranges.

Here I have braised lamb shanks in a saffron- and orange-infused broth. The tart acidity of the oranges cuts rather nicely into the unctuousness of the lamb shank. The candied orange peels wrap around your tongue in every bite, pairing beautifully with the crunch of fragrant jade-green pistachios. All served on a bed of perfectly fluffy Basmati rice.

And don’t forget to drizzle the saffron wine glaze on top, spoonful by spoonful.

Note: I have made two changes to a traditional Khorest-e-Portaghal: I have omitted carrots and added wine for braising.

(I researched braising tips for lamb shanks from The New Best Recipe by Cook’s Illustrated .)

Ingredients:
You will need three oranges, 1 orange will be peeled for the orange rind, use this, and another one, for juicing. Use the flesh of the third orange for garnishing this dish.

Ingredients for lamb shanks:
* 4 lamb shanks
* salt
* 3 tbsp corn (or other neutral) oil
* 1 cup red wine (optional) you can substitute water
* 1 cup chicken stock
* 1 stick cinnamon
* 2 tsp saffron threads crushed and powdered with a pestle and mortar and divided into 2 batches
* juice of 2 oranges
* juice of 1 lime
* handful pistachios, unsalted
* 1 tsp cornflour, made into a slurry

Ingredients for candied orange peel:
* 1 orange
* 2 tbsp butter (unsalted)
* 1-2 tbsp sugar (add as much or as little as you like)

Preparation:
*Pre-heat your oven to 350F/180C

Step 1: Candied Orange Peel:
* Peel the rind of one orange, taking care not to get any of the bitter white flesh beneath. Julienne the orange peel, (see photo above, about 1.5-2 in length.) Add to boiling water for 3-5 minutes.
* Drain water from the orange peels, place back on a medium flame and add butter and sugar. Stir for a few minutes till the sugar and butter start to caramelise and the orange peels begin to droop and curl a bit. Please be careful not to do this on a high flame otherwise the peel and sugar will burn and turn bitter.
* Remove from the flame and pour onto a tray lined with parchment paper. Set aside and allow to cool.

Step 2: Lamb Shanks:
* Heat your oven to 350F/180C and turn your stove top burner to medium-high.
* Place a large dutch oven (I use this, it has a 7-qt capacity, by All Clad) on stove top and warm the corn oil.
* Season your lamb shanks with salt and place in a single layer (do not overlap shanks you may have to do this in batches) in the dutch oven.
* Once the shanks have caramelised nicely on both sides, (about 5-7 minutes), remove and set aside. You’ll notice that a lot of fat would have rendered. Drain all the fat from the dutch oven.
* Place lamb shanks back into dutch oven and add wine, chicken stock, cinnamon stick, half of the saffron powder, the juice of 2 oranges and lime.
* Cover with lid and place in the oven.
* Oven times vary, so you will have to keep an eye on the shanks. In my kitchen, it takes 2.5 hours for the lamb shanks to be falling-off-the-bone-tender.
* Braise in the oven for 2 hours uncovered. At the 1.5 hour mark, check for tenderness gently with a fork. This will be a good indication of how much more time is required for doneness. Turn the shanks over once, very gently. If you feel too much liquid has evaporated, add some boiling water.
*After the 2 hour mark, braise for 30 minutes without the lid. By this time the meat should be almost falling off the bone. There should still be some shallow liquid in the dutch oven.
*Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 20 minutes.

Step 3: Glaze:
Because lamb shanks render so much fat, you will have to remove the fat carefully.
You have two options here:

Option 1: Place remaining stock in fridge minimum 5 hours or preferably, overnight.
This will ensure that the fats rendered solidify.
Take out lamb shanks from fridge the next morning (or after at least 5 hours in the fridge) and carefully remove the solidified fat, without removing the gelatin-like lamb and chicken stock beneath.

Option 2: Transfer remaining stock into a narrow vessel. Allow to rest for half an hour, then skim the fat from the top.

Once the fat has been removed under Options 1 or 2, place stock in a saucepan, add the other half of the saffron powder and season with salt. Add some more orange or lime juice to your liking, season with salt if necessary. Add cornflour slurry till thick. Remove from flame.

Final Touches:
Carve some slivers of fresh orange. Place lamb shank in individual plates on top of Basmati rice (see recipe here), drizzle with the glaze/gravy, arrange strands of candied oranges on top and slivers of oranges on the side and sprinkle with pistachios.


Lamb shank tagine with fruit and nuts

Farid Zadi is finishing off a tagine of lamb shanks braised with nuts and apricots in spicy tomato sauce, the crown of a meal that includes four Algerian salads and the flaky filo snacks called brik. As he skims the fat from the tagine’s red-orange surface, he slyly says, “This is the French chef in me. In Algeria, they probably wouldn’t skim it.”

Born in France of Algerian Berber ancestry, married to an American woman born in Korea, with cooking experience in five countries, Zadi, 39, has the sort of cosmopolitan perspective that probably represents the future of cuisine. He’s knowledgeable about North African food as well as classical French cookery.

His bully pulpit isn’t a restaurant but a Le Cordon Bleu course at the California School of Culinary Arts in Pasadena, where he’s training many of the upcoming generation of chefs. They’re basically learning French technique, but Zadi makes sure they know the right way to make a couscous as well.

He’s making his influence felt through his writing and food blogging too, and he champions North African cuisine as a board member of the new Pan-Arab division of Slow Food International, the nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving traditional cuisines.

“I first learned of him by reading his defense of Algerian food on eGullet.com,” says food writer Paula Wolfert. “It was very touching -- so smart, so passionate, so directed toward what quite a few of us are interested in.”

Training and passion are fine things, but the proof is in the tagine. The fact is, Zadi is a brilliant chef. Everything he touches explodes with fragrance.

North African food -- perhaps the last underappreciated Mediterranean cuisine -- has been slipping more and more into the mainstream around here, particularly during the last year. More and more Southern California restaurants now find room on their menus for a couscous, such as the mint-infused version on which L.A.'s Water Grill serves Dungeness crab cakes. Other North African elements are showing up too, such as the merguez lamb sausage at the Vertical Wine Bistro in Pasadena, the Cornish hen bestila at Bin 8945 in West Hollywood and the homemade harissa hot sauce that Hollywood’s Hungry Cat serves with seared tuna.

As with the earlier influences of French and Japanese cuisine, we can expect to see culinary fusion (we’re already seeing it in, say, the veal chop with walnut couscous at Studio at Montage Resort & Spa in Laguna Beach). Our tables should be wonderfully enriched with North Africa’s perfumed spices, feather-light couscous and earthy hot sauces.

And this is Zadi’s bailiwick. On the one hand, he’s cooked at the famous two-star Restaurant Jacques Cagna in Paris. On the other, he spent part of his youth in Setif, his family’s hometown in the Kabylie region of northeastern Algeria, where he herded sheep in upland pastures.

So he’s both a cosmopolitan and a homeboy. “When I went to Oran [in western Algeria], they told me I’m more French than Algerian,” he recalls with a pitying look. “I told them, ‘I’m more country than any of you.’ ”

Right now he’s demonstrating some of his dishes: the tagine a carrot-fennel salad a blood orange, fennel and onion salad a roast-chicken brik (a savory filled pastry) various condiments and, for dessert, a sweet, nut-filled pastry with blood orange sauce.

He’s cooking at his mother-in-law’s house in Montebello, assisted by his wife, Ji-Young, who also knows her way around Algerian food and comes at things from her own non-European perspective.

What is Algerian food? Zadi has been writing a book that will address its history, but he’s reluctant to draw any sharp lines dividing Algerian, Moroccan and Tunisian cuisines. They all have a lot in common, such as the spice-rich stews called tagines and specific ingredients such as couscous, preserved lemons and a local flaky pastry somewhat similar to filo.

Still, he points out, Algeria does have a focus of its own. It’s known for its use of tomato sauces and harissa. Americans would be struck by how often Algerian cooks flavor dishes with one part or another of the fennel plant -- seed, bulb or fronds (a salad may consist of olives dressed with fennel puree). Altogether, Algerians eat a lot of salads, particularly of mixed wild greens.

By comparison with Moroccan cuisine, which is colored by the aristocratic traditions of its royal cities, Algerian food tends to be simple and earthy. What’s the recipe for the famous Algerian spice mixture ras el hanout? “It’s just all the spices you have on hand,” says Zadi -- but freshly ground (he even grinds his own turmeric root). Over and over, in demonstrating his recipes, he emphasizes that ingredients can be substituted according to availability or desire.

Not that simplicity means predictability. On his website, Zadi gives a recipe for an elegantly simple couscous flavored with lavender flowers.

Zadi likes to “layer” spices -- add them at different stages of cooking. For his tagine, he rubs the lamb shanks with olive oil and ras el hanout before frying them in extra virgin olive oil. (He says Algerian olive oil, not available in this country, is much darker in color than Italian extra virgin, jesting, “You could put it in your car and drive for a week.”)

When the lamb is browned, he fries garlic and onions with a little ras el hanout. Then he adds the onions to the shanks along with homemade tomato sauce and more ras el hanout. After simmering the shanks with ground nuts, winter squash and turnips, he adds some fresh harissa for heat and maybe a little saffron for fragrance. Then everything cooks with apricots, raisins and honey.

Together with the inevitable salt and pepper at the very end, that makes five stages at which spices are added. The result is rich and fragrant but harmonious, with no one ingredient dominating.

The fresh harissa that Zadi adds to the tagine turns out to be quite simple to make, just a matter of pureeing several kinds of of peppers with garlic, olive oil and sun-dried tomatoes, a traditional ingredient in North Africa. (“The food processor is your friend,” says Zadi, in a cooking-teacher mood.)

The result tastes something like a concentrated salsa with a combination of fresh and dried chile flavors, and goes with a wide variety of foods: stews, roasts, fried dishes, salads, anywhere a flavorful hot sauce would be welcome.

Another versatile Algerian sauce is chermoula, a lemony vinaigrette pureed with garlic, chiles and a mixture of flat-leaf parsley and cilantro. It is used as a marinade or a dipping sauce, particularly with fried fish. Zadi goes very easy on the cilantro, because he believes it should be used subtly. (“I’m very opinionated,” he explains. “That’s why I’m Algerian.”)

While the tagine cooks, Zadi assembles an array of salads. A pastel-colored mixture of shredded carrot and fennel bulb is dressed with vinaigrette and garnished with toasted pine nuts. A bowl of green olives becomes a salad when presented with three toppings: chermoula, harissa and pureed fennel.

A mixture of roasted peppers, shredded fennel and chopped tomatoes, the kind of dish often presented to guests in Algeria along with flatbread, comes with no dressing at all: humble, earthy and fresh.

The grandest of the salads is made with sliced blood orange, shredded fennel and paper-thin slices of onion, dressed with orange juice, olive oil and parsley. “Put it in the fridge for half an hour,” he says. “The acidity of the orange cooks the onion.” He serves this on mixed greens.

His way of making Algerian food reflects his classical training at the Ecole Hoteliere d’Eragny in Paris. For instance, he cuts up the vegetables for his tagine smaller than a home cook would and adds them later in the cooking to achieve a fresher flavor.

The layering of spices is his way of achieving the effect of daylong or overnight cooking in a clay pot, and he doesn’t disdain European utensils such as the mandoline and the food processor. “I like to encourage people to cook,” he says, “rather than discourage them by nagging about ‘old methods.’ ” And he compromises when making brik, a sort of flat, flaky pie with an egg in the filling. In North Africa, the local pastry called warka or malsouka would be used, but it’s not available here, so Zadi substitutes filo, though grumbling a little at its relative fragility and tendency to dry out as you’re working with it.

The classic brik is brik a l’oeuf, simply a sheet or two of malsouka (or filo) folded around a raw egg and fried crisp and brown in plenty of olive oil.

But you can put other things in the filling along with the egg. Zadi improvises a very tasty one with leftover roast chicken and chermoula. “In Algeria,” Zadi says, “people have brik parties -- they put out all sorts of fillings and let people make their own.” He’s made briks with tuna and Korean kimchi.

Except at Ramadan, Algerians don’t eat pastries with their meals, which typically end with fruits and nuts. Pastries go with coffee or tea.

Among the common ones is samsa, made by folding a 2-inch-wide strip of filo around a ground-almond filling in a triangular shape (fold to the right, fold forward, fold to the left, fold forward and repeat, until you get to the end of the strip), then frying. A cousin of baklava formed this way (though baked, rather than fried) was popular in this country during the filo craze of the 1970s, but Americans tended to get tired of it because the filling was so relentlessly sweet. Like many Algerians today, Zadi cuts down on the sugar.

When making old-time Algerian home-style sweets, he follows the traditional techniques, but with a pastry such as samsa, which Algerians consider an international recipe, he may innovate in a way that reflects his French culinary training.

To accompany samsa, he makes a more interesting sauce than the honey or sugar syrups that usually accompany baklavas: a tangy orange syrup (using both juice and peel), which has a particularly memorable rose hue when made with blood oranges.

Besides teaching, running two websites, (www.chefzadi.com on Algerian food and www.mybookofrai.typepad.com with an international focus and helping start the new branch of Slow Food, Zadi is planning a pan-Mediterranean food festival in Los Angeles for 2008 and talking with a TV producer about a food history program.

And there’s that book. Along with its discussion of Algerian food history, he intends it to “teach cooking techniques and encourage creativity. Simplify recipes and cooking.”

But once in a while he takes a break and goes back to relax with the family in Setif. “What I do when I’m in Algeria,” he says, “is eat, laugh and drink coffee with my friends.”


Ingredients for the lamb:

450g onions (2 medium ones), chopped to chunky dice

Spices: 2tsp black peppercorns, freshly ground then add 1 tsp turmeric powder, 2 tsp cinnamon

1 kg stewing lamb, chopped into good-sized chunks (7cm cubes or so)

15g fresh ginger, finely grated

700ml water, as directed below

250g best dates, stoned. Chop half the dates into chunky slices and leave the rest whole

2 tsp orange blossom water

Small handful blanched almonds and pistachios, shelled

Small handful flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked off their stalks and fresh mint, big leaves (torn), little leaves left whole

Rhubarb, Orange Salad Ingredients:

Some olive oil for drizzling

450g rhubarb, chopped into 3-inch batons on the diagonal

1 lemon, juice freshly squeezed

¼ preserved lemon, finely diced (optional but well worth finding)


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I've held onto this recipe for years and made it for the first time in my Instant Pot. Delicious and wonderful. I thought it one of the best things I ever made. Then I looked at the reviews and some thought it too bland. Hmm. I actually measured the ground ginger, but guessed on the cinnamon and forgot the honey and nutmeg. Maybe I have a heavy hand.

Following recommendations from earlier reviewers, I made this dish was with the following modifications/methods, and it was luxuriously nourishing with mild but aromatic flavor, perfect for my tender-tummied family. I trimmed about 1" of fat off a leg of lamb and rendered over medium-low heat in a sautee pan while cutting a pound of lamb meat into stew-sized pieces. I browned the lamb meat and a 4" beef marrow bone in the lamb fat in batches, and added the cooked meat and browned bone to a slow cooker with 3 cups of light homemade chicken broth. I discarded all but 1 tsp of lamb fat in the sautee pan, and added one diced onion, cooking over medium heat until slightly soft, then added onions to the stock pot, which I set on medium for two hours. After that I strained all solids out of the stock and poured the stock into a shallow pan and set it out in the snow so fat would rise to the top quickly. I placed the cooked meat and onions (discarded bone) in a small pot balanced over a larger pot of simmering water and cloves. This allowed the meat to stay warm for an hour while the clove steam cut the "gamy" smell of cooked lamb in the air. Over that hour I prepped all the other veggies, measured & set out spices (2 tsp Ras al Hanout, 1 tsp ground ginger, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1"x2" strip of lemon rind cut into julienne, 1 tsp date syrup, 1 tsp pomegranate molasses), dried fruits, minced parsley, and couscous/water station, and cleaned the kitchen from the meat cooking and set the table. Since it was only 10F outside the day I made this dish, the broth fat was easy to remove from the shallow pan. I added the broth to slow cooker and set to high for 10 minutes covered until steaming. I added meat, onions, spices/zest, syrup/molasses, carrots, sweet potato, and a few apricots and prunes, and cooked uncovered for 10 minutes (until veggies were half-cooked, and the dried fruit had started to disintegrate into the sauce and thicken it). Then I added the squash and remaining dried fruits and cooked 5 minutes, while 1 cup of couscous was reconstituting. This provided three hearty servings!

I really wanted to love this, and have always had good luck with the recipes from the Gourmet cookbook (where I initially discovered this). Sadly, I have to agree with the others who said this tagine was underspiced and kind of dull. While the vegetables had a nice middle eastern undertone, both the liquid and the lamb had no distinctive flavor. I might try it again tinkering with spices, but there are so many other good middle eastern lamb recipes that I'll probably move on.

this might be the best meal i have ever cooked - time intensive at 2 hours but worth it!

My family really liked this dish. Instead of using water, I used part water (2/3) and part chicken broth (1/3). I was generous with the honey and cinnamon.

I've made this several times with some modifications. I usually use leftover roast lamb leg since the meat has to be cooked anyway. There's not so much fat that way and it eliminates trimming and cutting. With all the other flavours, I don't think it makes a lot of difference. I omit the saffron from the tagine because it tends to get lost there and add it to the couscous. We think this is delicious.

Wonderful fall or winter dish. Great served over couscous. Mine was not the distinct yellow color of saffron so next time I would add a bigger pinch. The apricots and prunes accent the lamb really well. I would definitely make again.

I made this recipe for the first time in my new tagine. It was delicious. I didn't use prunes since i didn't have any and i used zucchini instead of squash. Do NOT change a thing, it was very very good. I can't wait to make it for my next dinner party. I served it with Israeli couscous decorated with toasted pine nuts and chopped cilantro and with chopped Israeli salad.

why is A COOK advertising for another website in almost every recipe I look at?

the lamb shoulder meat is not tender enough. The spices are too limited in quantity so it lacks interest. Prunes were a dsitracting flavor. There are many much better lamb stews around.

I feel bad for never rating this before, I have been making it for years and it is truly a family fave. My normally reticent husband almost licks the plate!! It does take a lot of time so I usually at least double and freeze half, but it is worth the effort. I've made it twice for passover, reminiscent of a tsimmes but way better!

Great recipe. Easy to make. I substituted and used more canned apricots and no prunes. Worked well, but would stick with dried apricots as the canned are less tart and got a bit lost with the other flavors.

This is a great recipe -- but even better if you skip the dried apricots and prunes and when in season find quince and use instead. I peel the quince and poach in a cup of the broth from the lamb stew with suage and a cup of water which is reduced down to half it volume - the peeled cored and halved quince are then added and cookwed untiul still firm but covered in a gorgeous sweetened reduction of the sauce. The quince are served around the edge of a large platter with the lamb and vegetables piled up in the center over a mound of couscous. I also skip the honey in the stew if I use quince since their sweetness is more than enough.

This was more like a 2-1/2 stars. It was too greasy for my taste. If I make it again I will refrigerate the lamb after the simmering and skim off all that fat. The taste was quite good, I added some cumin and a touch of cardamom. You don't need the honey at all with all that dried fruit. I also added about 6 oz of cooked chickpeas which made it quite lovely. My kids hate lamb, though, and after this dish, they still do.

This was so tasty. I didn't add carrots, prunes or apricots, but doubled the sweet potato and squash. I half roasted the sweet potato before I peeled and cubed it. I aldo added 6 cloves of smashed garlic along with the onion. I'm looking forward to the leftovers!

I made a few adjustments. I increased the amounts of cinnamon and ginger and added cumin. I added some garlic to the onion (just because I can't imagine a lamb dish without garlic). I didn't have squash so I used rutabaga instead. I garnished it with fresh mint (cilantro might have been even better)and served it with both couscous and the suggested salad. I will definitely be making this again.

Very tasty and easy to do. I would change slightly by adding more meat and saffron and reducing the amount of dried fruit. Also, I simmered the meat for about 2 hrs so it was really tender.


Lamb Tagine with Preserved Lemon

Pre-soak the saffron in a little hot water. Tie the herbs into a bunch.

Step 2

Heat the oil in a flameproof casserole or large saucepan. Add the lamb in batches and fry until the chunks are evenly browned. Remove and leave to drain on kitchen paper.

Step 3

Add the onion to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until just softening and browning then add the garlic. Cook for a couple of minutes, adding more oil if required. Return the meat to the casserole and pour in the water and add the ground coriander, ginger, saffron and soaking water, and herbs. Cover the pan and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for about 1¼ hours or until the lamb is tender.

Step 4

Add the artichokes, broad beans and preserved lemon to the pan, cover and cook for another 30 minutes. Remove the bunch of herbs. Season to taste with salt and pepper.


A Moroccan twist to New Year's

The usual New Year's Eve extravagance may be a little muted this year, but who needs caviar and truffles anyway? If you have Amaryll Schwertner making the menu, the delicacies won't be missed.

Schwertner, partner in Boulettes Larder in San Francisco, would be on many people's short list for most original Bay Area chef, a cook whose pantry ranges widely and whose imagination never sleeps. If I were to ask a dozen local chefs for a festive but affordable New Year's Eve menu, it would be Schwertner's that I most wanted to eat.

Over a brainstorming session in her petite restaurant/takeout shop in the Ferry Building, Schwertner quickly settled on the notion of a North African tagine - a slow braise - as the meal's centerpiece. Made with lamb shoulder, it would be elegant yet economical, and it would fill the house with warm scents. What's more, Schwertner thought, the accompanying couscous could symbolize prosperity, the tiny grains representing future good fortune in the same way that lentils do for Italians and black-eyed peas for African Americans (see story, below). Ben Bernanke, have some couscous.

You don't need an actual tagine - the two-piece clay cooking vessel with the conical lid - to make the dish by that name, says Schwertner. She uses a heavy stainless pot. Most terra-cotta tagines are too small to make a generous braise for eight, and they're meant to be used on a wood fire in any case. "They're really for show," says the chef, "and with the super-showy ones, food is transferred into them to bring to the table."

Schwertner's fluffy couscous requires three steamings, but don't cross it off the menu yet. Think of the time you'll spend, and it isn't much, as an investment in learning a new technique, one you can use on other grains like cracked wheat, says Schwertner. The directions on most packaged couscous suggest a one-step method, but that's a feeble compromise. "If you do three steamings, you'll be so happy and feel like you're tasting couscous for the first time," says the chef.

The rich lamb braise needs a refreshing counterpoint, like a juicy salad. To keep the menu in the North African realm, Schwertner proposes a traditional Moroccan citrus salad with honey, orange blossom water and olives. She shaves radishes over it, tops it with baby greens and herbs and finishes it with a sprinkle of crushed pink peppercorns. It is gorgeous, the citrus gleaming like gems.

California farmers with flawless produce show up at Schwertner's doorstep every Saturday for the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, and she shops other farmers' markets during the week. The restaurant buys nothing from produce distributors every frilly sprig of frisee and tiny turnip comes straight from the farm. In a town packed with chefs picky about produce, Schwertner skims the cream.

Adorable baby carrots in multiple hues become a side dish for her tagine, marinated in the Moroccan fashion with olive oil, lemon, cinnamon, cumin and paprika. From a market vendor, Schwertner has scored an enormous Buddha's hand - the tentacled citrus that looks like a yellow octopus - and decides to weave this fragrant giant into the menu. She softens a few fine shreds in brown butter with julienned ginger and adds it to wilted chard to accompany the lamb.

With her first hors d'oeuvre, Schwertner wants to evoke the hospitality that Moroccans famously show to arriving guests. A friend once told her about staying at a small Moroccan hotel, where visitors were welcomed with warm milk scented with orange blossom water and a mysteriously stuffed date so delicious that the friend referred to it simply as "the yummy."

Schwertner's interpretation - a soft date stuffed with almond butter, cumin and lemon zest, with a crunchy whole toasted nut on top - is beyond yummy. But limit yourself to one, or at most two, to leave room for her second appetizer, a silky hummus prepared with dried fava beans and a whisper of ginger. Assemble a bouquet of winter vegetables for dipping, like crisp fennel, hearts of romaine, radishes and golden beets.

A self-taught cook with exquisite taste and enormous talent, Schwertner has a lengthy Bay Area resume. I have followed her career for 25 years now, from the pioneering Mudd's in San Ramon, one of the first Bay Area restaurants to have its own vegetable garden to Premier Cru, an East Bay wine shop, where she operated a sublime cafe to Sol y Luna, where she helped introduce San Francisco to tapas to Stars, where she and partner Lori Regis tried in vain to revive a restaurant on its last gasp.

"Being immersed in this work for all these years, there's a common thread, and that's my curiosity about ingredients," says the Hungarian-born Schwertner, whose soft, low voice retains the merest trace of an accent. "I've never been the sort to attach myself to one dish and repeat that endlessly. I never want to stop exploring."

At Boulettes, a sort of apothecary for passionate cooks, Schwertner displays the ingredients that currently fascinate her in big glass jars for retail sale. Bottled French rose water, Japanese green tea salt and jars of fiery Calabrian chiles speak to her affection for the fragrant, spicy and exotic. The granddaughter of a famous Budapest pastry chef - her grandmother, not her grandfather - she cooks with an ascot tied jauntily around her neck and sports owlish round eyeglasses like Harry Potter's.

Boulettes' pristine open kitchen is the working studio of an artist-chef with a need for beauty, calm and order. "It's like facing a blank canvas every day," says the chef of her spontaneous approach to menu making, an exercise that starts with the harvest report from her farm suppliers. "Out of discipline and your inner depths comes this thing, this art. Nothing is predetermined."

Her New Year's Eve menu concludes with crunchy meringues dusted with chopped pistachios to partner vanilla ice cream with candied orange peel. A fresh mint tisane brings the meal to a close, wafting its cleansing fragrance over the table in what seems like an apt way to sweep out this troubling year.

Schwertner and Regis usually work on New Year's Eve, but expect to have the night off. "We are going to be home," announces the chef, who hasn't made the menu yet. "I don't have too strong of a plan, but it will be something simple and flavorful and full of spices, I hope."

Boulettes Larder, 1 Ferry Building Marketplace, San Francisco (415) 399-1155. Open daily.


Persian tas kebab

Every country, province, village and household makes this differently, but the principles are the same: meat layered with vegetables and fruit and baked in a fragrant tomato sauce.

Serves 4–6
2 onions, sliced
1 leek, roughly chopped
3 sticks celery, cut into fat chunks
1 chicken, skinned and cut into 8 pieces
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp lime powder
Salt and black pepper
2 carrots, cut into fat sticks
1 green pepper, cut into chunks
6–8 mushrooms, wiped
3 medium waxy potatoes, peeled and cut into slabs
½ small butternut squash, peeled and cut into chunks
1 large aubergine, cut into 2cm cubes
200g prunes, soaked if necessary
2 tbsp good tomato paste
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp olive oil, for cooking
A glass of cold water

1 Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/gas mark 5. Layer the onions, leek and celery in the bottom of a fairly deep baking tray. Arrange the chicken on top and sprinkle it with the spices and seasoning. Dot the rest of the vegetables and the prunes evenly around and on top of the chicken.

2 Mix the tomato paste, tomatoes and olive oil together, and add the water. Pour the liquid over the chicken and vegetables, cover the tray properly with foil and bake for around 1 hour 10 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are tender. Serve with warm bread.


Recipe Redux: Spicy Orange Salad, Moroccan Style, 1980

I have never seen an orange salad on a menu or been served one at someone’s house. And now that I have tasted one, I’m outraged. Moroccan orange salad is one of the best salads in the world — sweet citrus juices countered with pungent onion and dueling kicks of spices and acidity.

Some cooks add olives and paprika, as Craig Claiborne did in The Times in 1980. He kept his accessible with a little garlic, cayenne, olive oil, vinegar and parsley. It grabs you, shakes you, then lets you enjoy the sweet fruit.

In Paula Wolfert’s “World of Food,” she seasons the orange slices with the spice mixture ras el hanout, orange-flower water, lime and lemon zest, dates and mint. Wolfert devotes an entire section to orange salads in her book “Couscous and Other Good Food From Morocco,” one with radishes and cinnamon, another with grated carrots and orange-flower water and one very much like Claiborne’s with olives and paprika. She even wrote, “Olives and oranges are one of those miracle combinations, like lamb and garlic, before which I sometimes feel I should bow in gratitude.”

I sent Claiborne’s recipe to Andrew Carmellini, the chef and an owner of Locanda Verde in Manhattan. Claiborne’s salad immediately reminded him of the citrus salads served along the Amalfi coast and on Sicily, where orange-and-lemon salad is commonplace. Cooks there also use oranges, wild oregano and green olives to make sauce Agrigento, an accompaniment to black bass or scallops.

Usually the chefs who supply a modern recipe for this column like to stick to one idea. But Carmellini wanted to play with two. The first was a simple orange-and-avocado salad his mother in Florida makes. He loves Mexican food, so he added cilantro, dried oregano and hot sauce, contrasting seasonings that serve to underscore the oranges’ sweetness.

Next he shifted to Morocco to deconstruct the flavors of the salad and recombine them in a wonderfully layered lamb tagine with citrus rice. The lamb is simmered in a bath of tomatoes, Moroccan spices, orange rind, olives, ginger and garlic, and you use it to blanket basmati rice that’s infused with chilies, lemon zest and orange sections. For a little crunch, he tops the tagine with toasted almonds and sesame seeds. It’s the kind of dish whose complexity inspires respect for its maker.

When you’re in a hurry, you can toss together the avocado-and-orange salad in about five minutes. When you want to submit to the complex (but not difficult) workings of Carmellini’s tagine — when you want to understand the power of citrus in savory dishes — you can follow his recipe step by step. And when you just want to get mad at the world, try Claiborne’s original recipe and fume that it’s not available everywhere.

1980: Spicy Orange Salad, Moroccan Style
This recipe appeared in an article in The Times by Craig Claiborne.

1 tablespoon red-wine or sherry vinegar

Freshly ground black pepper

12 pitted black olives, preferably imported Greek or Italian.

1. Peel the oranges, paring away all the exterior white pulp. Cut each orange into 8 wedges. Cut each wedge into 1-inch pieces. Set aside.

2. Place the cayenne, paprika, garlic, olive oil and vinegar in a salad bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste and whisk to combine. Add the oranges, parsley and olives. Toss gently to blend. Serve cold or at room temperature. Serves 4.

Recipe: 2010: Mom's Florida Avocado and Orange Salad (Adjusted)
By Andrew Carmellini, the chef and an owner of Locanda Verde in Manhattan.

2 Valencia or navel oranges
1 Florida avocado or 2 regular avocados
Juice of 1 lime
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 scant tablespoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus some for sprinkling
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon of your favorite hot sauce
Handful cilantro leaves.

1. Segment the oranges by slicing off the ends with a sharp knife. Put the orange on one end and, with a small, sharp knife, cut off the peel and white pith. Segment the orange by slicing between the membranes. Remove the segments and drop into a bowl. Squeeze the juice out of the remaining membranes into the bowl with the segments. Reserve the juice.

2. With a dinner knife (not the sharpest knife in your kitchen), cut each halved avocado half lengthwise into segments, cutting through the meat to (not into) the skin. Then cut around the outside of the avocado meat and, using the knife, push the pieces out of the skin and into the bowl with the oranges.

3. Add the lime juice, red onion, oregano, olive oil, salt, hot sauce and the reserved orange juice. Using a large spoon, mix all the ingredients together so that everything is coated and well combined.

4. Remove to a serving bowl. Garnish with cilantro leaves and drizzle with more olive oil. Serves 4 as an appetizer or antipasto.

2010: Lamb Tagine With Green Olives
By Andrew Carmellini, the chef and an owner of Locanda Verde in Manhattan. If you can get your hands on ras el hanout, you can use it instead of making the spice mixture. And no worries if you don’t have a tagine — a covered Dutch oven will work just fine.