Friday, November 13, 2009
Posted by Kate at 8:19 AM
It's a rare meal these days that doesn't include something either homegrown or something I made from scratch, often with local ingredients. Still, not every meal has a critical mass of ingredients to warrant "harvest meal" status. Last night's dinner did though.
I made a tagine, my first ever, with a variety of homegrown, homemade, and local ingredients, plus a few that were none of those things. The lamb was pasture raised and very local, raised by a friend in fact. The cuts that had remained the longest in our freezer were the neck bones and the shanks - two cuts which happen to be traditional for Moroccan tagines. The tagine, after all, has all the hallmarks of peasant cuisine: slow cooking in one pot, vegetables augmenting meat, a fair amount of liquid, and it's traditionally served with couscous or flatbread. The nobles, we must suppose, got the leg and the rack.
I posted last year about making lamb stock from bones given to me by my lamb-raising friend. She gave me some more this summer, so I now have a nice quantity of canned lamb broth from a sustainable, local source. I used only about a pint of this to make the tagine. As stews go, tagines are light on the liquids.
Into the tagine pot (really a dutch oven) also went a tiny bit of our homegrown garlic, a very large leek from the garden, the last of our "summer" carrots, a little of the parsley that is still holding on out there, and one of the stella blue Hokkaido squashes we grew this year. This was our first taste of these winter squash, and my husband liked it. Stringy, fibrous winter squash gives him the squicks, and I had purposely planted this squash variety for its reported "fiberless" qualities. So it made me smile when he remarked on how acceptable it was to him.
Purchased ingredients in the tagine included some slivered fresh ginger, half a can of tomatoes, prunes, golden raisins (or "sultanas" for those of you visiting from overseas), cinnamon, black pepper, kosher salt, and a bare drizzle of olive oil. I didn't really follow a recipe, so I can't provide you with one. But I started it on the stovetop, giving the meat a very light searing before adding most of the other ingredients. Once the liquid (just enough to cover) was in and simmering, the tightly covered pot went into a very low oven (275 F/135 C) and stayed there for several hours, only getting pulled out to add a few ingredients, and to check the flavor. The squash and the raisins went in only for the last hour or so of cooking, and I added just enough extra broth at that point to again cover the ingredients. One of the shank bones came clear out of the meat when I gently stirred things about. When it was done I added more minced parsley and served it over some Israeli couscous cooked up with local shallots. The slow cooked cuts of lamb were incredibly tender. And the gelatin naturally present in the shanks gave the tagine a slight thickness. Very satisfying on a chill evening when the dark draws in early.
In retrospect, we might have preferred to serve the tagine over some homegrown mashed potatoes. That wouldn't be authentic, but neither was the Israeli couscous, and my husband didn't think that suited the tagine. It would have been nice too to try a little corriander and cardamom in the tagine, or lemon juice spritzed over each serving, but the flavor was surprisingly good with just the flavoring ingredients listed. Lemons are on our list of things to start growing next year (in a container), so maybe at some point I'll be able to include homegrown lemon in my dishes!
I like the combination of vegetables with dried fruit and a meaty broth. I could easily see making a tagine without any cut of meat at all. There are a ton of different tagine recipes out there, with a huge variety of vegetables. So lots of exploring to do!