This recipe conjures the heady, exotic flavours of North African cuisine, perfect for a cool autumn night or apres-ski in the winter. I created my own version from a variety of recipes online. Traditionally, a tajine is made in a shallow clay pot with a dome-shaped lid, but using a high quality heavy-bottomed saucepan (like Le Creuset) is the best best for the average home cook. This recipe makes enough for four.
To prepare lamb:
Start with a fresh leg of lamb. Mine weighed 2 lbs. I used half and froze the rest for later use. Trim of visible fat and cut into 1" cubes. (Variation: Buy prepared lamb stewing cubes). Heat 2T oil in an oven-proof saucepan over high heat until oil sizzles when water is flicked into the pot. Pat lamb dry with paper towels, then, working in batches, sear the lamb until well-browned on all sides. You'll be needing to turn on the vent on your oven hood. Add more oil throughout as needed. Set meat aside to drain once seared.
To prepare rest of casserole:
Finely chop one sweet onion and 4 cloves garlic. Heat a small amount of oil over medium heat in same saucepan used to sear lamb. Add onion and garlic along with 2 tsp turmeric, 2 tsp cardamom, 2 tsp cinnamon and 1 tsp ground ginger. Cook, stirring often, until browning and fragrant. Stir in 3 cups beef stock and 2T honey. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Add 1T cornstarch stirred into 1T water or lemon juice to make a slurry. Continue to simmer sauce for 5 minutes, then remove from heat.
To cook casserole:
Add lamb cubes, 1 cup halved dried apricots and 1/2 cup halved dried prunes to sauce. (I used dates in the version shown below but decided I prefer it with prunes, which are less cloyingly sweet.) Bake in oven at 300 for 1 hour, removing the lid for the last 15 minutes of cooking. Note: This dish could also be done in a slow cooker.
Serve over couscous with chopped toasted almonds.