I have only one question for you people. How did it happen that I still don’t own a tagine? I mean, I pretty much own everything else, but not that quirky looking clay crock. Why, would you ask, does one need to own a tagine? And I will tell you: I tried something new yesterday, and I liked it so much, I think my family will be subjected to a tagine marathon some time in a near future.
We stopped by a local farmer’s market on Sunday and picked up a gorgeous, almost round all over, eggplant. So typical of me, I had some far reaching plans for that eggplant, but my culinary inner guide led me in a completely different direction, and I ended up making this dish instead. I had to do some
poking around the internet research to understand how tagines are made. The method looked simple enough (I am always looking for the easy way out on a work night) — mix things together and stew for a while. And you know what, for a change, I happened to have every ingredient on the list.
Stewing the meat yielded quite a soupy, albeit beautiful, sauce. To thicken it, I decided to add whole wheat pearl couscous at the same time as eggplant, which turned out to be a good idea. Couscous soaked up some of the excess liquid and added much needed side-dishy substance and a sense of eating a complete meal, rather than just meat and sauce. But you surely don’t have to do what I did.
Here are the What and How, for yesterday’s batch:
Lamb Tagine with Eggplant & Couscous
- 1 large or a few smaller eggplants, stems removed, quartered and cut into 1″ thick strips lengthwise
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper or just peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- a pinch of saffron threads, crushed
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 4 cloves of garlic, smashed
- 1 1/2 lbs lamb meat, 2″ cubes
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 large ripe tomato, chopped
- 3 cups of stock or water
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 cup of whole wheat pearl (Israeli) couscous (optional)
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- fresh parsley or cilantro for garnish
Sprinkle eggplant slices liberally with coarse salt and place on a slanted board over a sink for at least 20 minutes. This is needed to remove excess juice and reduce bitterness that some large eggplants develop sometimes.
Heat the oil in the Dutch oven over medium heat. Toss in garlic and spices and toast them a bit in oil until fragrant and lightly browned.
Add the meat and brown for a 7-8 minutes, turning to coat.
Add onions and tomatoes, stir well, and saute for a few more minutes until tomatoes let all the juices out and turn intense red.
Add about 3 cups of stock or water, bring to a boil. Add salt, cover and cook on low until meat is tender.
Add couscous, stir, place eggplant strips on top, cover, and cook until couscous is done, for about 15-20 minutes.
Remove from heat, add lemon juice, stir well, and add chopped herbs.