Partly inspired, I have to admit, by Hugh FW’s Lamb and Quince Salad, which featured in The Guardian a fortnight ago, I endeavoured last week to concoct a Mutton and Quince Tajine.
It was a feast of medieval charm. The meat falling off the shoulder of Mutton, the Quince a fragrant, if slightly tart companion to the meat. Spicing the dish Morroccan style gave it an edge, cutting through ingredients that might otherwise have verged on stodgy.
The recipe I concocted was as follows:
Toast 1 tbsp Cumin Seed, 1 tbsp Coriander Seed, crush. Chop 2 Chillis. Slice 1 Lemon. Crush and peel 1 head of Garlic with the back of a knife. Mix the lot in Olive Oil, adding a sprinkle of Salt, lots of Black Pepper, 1 tsp Paprika. Rub into the shoulder of Mutton and leave to marinade for two to three hours.
Mutton in Marinade
Meanwhile cut 1 large Quince into 8 slices. Poach very gently in water with a sprig of Rosemary, 2 tbsp of Honey for about 20 minutes. (Normally I wouldn’t cook the veg prior to placing it in the Tagine, but Quince being such a stubborn fruit, I decided to do so.) Remove Quince, saving liquid and mix it into Marinade with Mutton.
While these are marinating prepare the Bread Dough
I use a Nigella recipe, which I adapt only slightly. 500g White Flour (mixture Strong White and French) sprinkled with 1tsp Yeast. Mix. Mix 2 tbsp Yogurt with 2 tbsp Olive Oil and add a touch of warm water. Add this to Flour mix, adding more warm water, stirring with a wooden spoon into a dough. Knead gently. Leave ten minutes. Knead again. Rise in a warm place covered in a plastic bag.
A couple of hours before eating layer 1 large Onion, or in my case several Torpedo Shallots, in the bottom of the Tagine. Follow this with some large slices of Pumpkin. Seal the shoulder of Mutton. If your Tagine is not large enough cut part of the meat off to bake separately. Place the Quince and Mutton in the Tagine with a handful of Olives and Chillies. Pour on the remainder of the Marinade and bring to heat. Once the Tagine is hot, pour on the liquid saved from the Quince, adding more water if necessary to bring to reach the edges of the Tagine base. Lid, bring to the boil, then simmer very slowly for one to two hours.
The bread should be punched down, salted one hour before eating. It is stretched on an oiled baking tray in a warm place to prove for twenty minutes. Then cooked at heat for 20-40 minutes until browning and bubbling. Wrap in a tea-towel when removing from the oven to keep the crust soft.
Mutton and Quince Tagine for dinner
Serve the Tagine with Bread, a simple Cucumber Yogurt. If necessary pour off some of the juice from the Tagine at the last minute and reduce with Rosemary to make a jus. Serve baking hot, don’t be afraid to eat with the hands, and extra Harissa.