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Tagine of Lamb with Fruit and Almonds

Published 18 September, 2006

Here's yesterdays gluten free recipe....

Sunday's are about being busy doing nothing, so after lunch, I made our dinner and put it on the stove to slow cook while the gluten free family took the terriers out for a forage in the woods. Before I tell you the recipe, let me tell you about the abundance of fresh forest mushrooms growing at the moment. We've got eggy yellow chanterelles and fragrant branched oyster mushrooms on the hill behind our house, and there were even more on the dog walk. I am going back there tonight with a bag and get me some fresh fungus!

Gluten Free Tagine of Lamb with Fruit and Almonds.

A tagine is a Moroccan cooking dish, with a conical lid which allows the spicy steam to condense and fall back into the stew, making sure your meal is moist and the meat tender. Most people don't have these at home, so I used a cast iron casserole dish with a tight fitting lid (It's a 1970's classic orange Le Creuset, handed down from the mother in law).

500 g of trimmed, diced lamb
1 tablespoon of oil
3 strands of saffron
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (or fenugreek - see why below)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 large onion, finely chopped
100g pitted prunes
100g dried apricots
1/2 tablespoon sesame seeds
1/2 cinammon stick
grated zest from one lemone
50g almonds, halved
Serve with brown rice.

What seems like a huge ingredient list is in fact mostly spices, so don't be put off! First off, heat the oil in your dish or pan. When the oil is hot, put in the saffron, pepper, ginger and cinnamon. (Note on cumin - as the husband is allergic at the moment to cumin, I didn't add this, but I reckon you should put it in. I used the same amount of fenugreek instead - you know the stuff - that's what your armpits smell of after you've had a big curry dinner!)

Give the spices a minute then add the meat and stir it around to brown it for 3 minutes or so. Add the onions and enough hot water to cover the ingredients and bring to the boil. Cover the dish, lower the heat to a very gentle simmer and leave for 2 to 3 hours. (Best to put too much water in than not enough and risk boiling dry! You can always reduce the liquid by 10 minutes of hard boiling at the end.)

Add the prunes, apricots, cinnamon stick and lemon zest to the stew and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, cook some brown rice. About 5 minutes before the end, toast the sesame seeds and almonds in a dry frying pan, until they are lightly browned. Watch out as the sesame seeds might pop! Add the nuts and seeds just before you serve. Season to taste.

Well tonight baby was not happy with her gluten free baby food! Mum has crashed and burned on the food front! I blended some of the stew and served it with the rice. She was happy enough to eat the rice and whole pieces of lamb, but absolutely refused point blank to eat the blended mush. To be fair it did resemble the contents of her nappy and was a very strong taste. Ah well, you live and learn! She did, as ever, eat her strawberries and blueberries with much gusto.

It's a dilemma knowing what to do when baby refuses your lovely gluten free baby food. Do you keep trying, winding her up to the point she refuses ALL food? Or do you call it quits and get something out of the freezer or open a ready-made jar, praying she still likes it today? I think that is the eternal parent's struggle - the balancing act between pushing their taste boundaries or making sure their bellies are full.

Back to the recipe, if I made it again, I'd probably omit the sesame seeds and put a squeeze of lemon juice to counter the sweetness from the fruit. Other than that, it was a tasty treat after getting soaked in the woods.

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