WINTER months have me reaching for hearty dishes, but cheered up by something exotic, as in George Herbert’s “Prayer (1)”: “The land of spices; something understood.” Lamb at this time of year is more flavoursome before we get to spring. Make a Moroccan tagine and serve with couscous, rice, or new potatoes.
250g (8 oz) shallots
5 garlic cloves
1.5cm (½ in.) grated ginger
450g (1 lb) lamb or beef, cubed
2 aubergines, diced
3 carrots, chunked
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon paprika
sea salt and ground black pepper
450ml (¾ pt) vegetable stock
small bunch fresh coriander
Take a large casserole and fry off the peeled shallots in oil until they have some colour. Slough off the garlic skins, stir through with the ginger, then add the meat and mix together; brown the meat. Throw in the aubergine and carrots, combine well, then sprinkle over the spices. Season well, stir, and pour in the stock. Bring to the boil, cover, and simmer for an hour, stirring from time to time. Remove the lid and raise the heat for about 30 minutes. Chop the coriander leaves and scatter over the top before serving.
Couscous can be made to packet instructions, but the “pour boiling water over” method often yields claggy results. If using about 450g (1 lb) of grains, then moisten them first with three tablespoons of olive oil and two of water. Steam for 30 minutes, then tip out and stir through the same amount of oil and water again with a fork to separate, and a pinch of salt. Steam for a further 45 minutes and fluff well.
Passion fruits are in season and make for a jewelled Coconut and passion-fruit loaf.
275g (9 oz) plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
120g (4 oz) plus 2 tablespoons caster sugar
150g (5 oz) desiccated coconut
300ml (½ pt) full milk
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
4 passion fruits
60g (2 oz) melted butter
Combine the flour, baking powder, sugar (reserving the 2 tablespoons), and coconut in a large bowl. Whisk together the eggs with the milk and vanilla, then add to the flour with the scooped-out flesh of two of the passion fruits and melted butter. Mix and stir, bringing everything together lightly.
Pour into a large loaf tin, greased and floured. Bake in a preheated oven at 180°C/350°F/Gas 4 for one hour. Leave to cool in the tin, then mix the flesh of the remaining passion fruits with 2 tablespoons of sugar to form a syrup, and spoon over the top of the loaf.