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Rick Stein’s Lamb Tagine with Apricots

This warming tagine with tender lamb and sweet dried apricots is served with couscous for a filling meal that can be on the table in just 45 minutes.

Introduction

This brings back memories of a trip to the North African part of Marseilles while filming my series Secret France. In order to emphasise the large number of spice shops there, I bought a large bag of ras-el-hanout which means ‘head of the shop’ in Arabic – sort of the top spice blend of the shop. It was a heady mixture of ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, more akin to the spicing of medieval England and not at all like Indian flavourings. At the time I was so happy with my bag of spice, but we carried on filming and I had nothing to put it with and in the end it found itself in the back of my cupboard and it lost its sweet fragrance. A good ras-el-hanout is the centrepiece of this dish and I would recommend you buy the best you can find. The other loveliness here is the apricots and the almonds. I have chosen neck fillet simply because it is not too fatty and it’s fairly quick to cook, just forty-five minutes.

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Ingredients

2 tbsp olive oil
750g lamb neck fillet, cut into chunks
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 level tbsp ras-el-hanout
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp honey
15 dried apricots, halved
salt and black pepper
For the couscous:
400ml just-boiled water or stock
200g couscous
Handful of fresh coriander, chopped, plus extra to garnish
40g flaked almonds

Method

Heat half the oil in a shallow flameproof casserole dish or a tagine. Working in batches so you don’t overcrowd the pan, fry the lamb until browned all over, then set it aside.

Add the onion, garlic and ras-el-hanout to the pan and fry gently until softened, then add the tomatoes, honey, apricots and 200ml of water. Put the lamb back in the pan, stir and season to taste with salt and pepper. Bring to boil, cover the pan with a lid and simmer very gently for 40 minutes until the lamb is tender. If the sauce looks a little too runny, cook for a further 5 minutes, uncovered.

While the lamb is cooking, add the water or stock to the couscous and leave it to stand for 5–10 minutes. Fluff up the couscous with a fork, then stir through the coriander and flaked almonds and season with salt and pepper.

Serve the tagine on top of the couscous and sprinkle with a little extra coriander.

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