Two birthdays

I am writing in spoonglish again after two months. I obviously did not follow through with my new years resolution. Is anybody surprised? Not only I left my blog aside, but also I forgot spoonglish first birthday, which happened this month without me even thinking about it. We didn't celebrate! I also had my birthday this month, 27 years old already, but we did celebrate that one.  What a selfish b**ch I have become!

Some days ago, I made my favorite lamb tagine recipe. I had a piece of lamb shoulder in the freezer since do-not-ask-me-when, and I decided to take it out some morning to make this dish that I love and that I hadn't made in a while.

The first time I ever ate tagine was at a Moroccan restaurant called El Jardín del Califa, in Vejer de la Frontera. If you ever happen to go to this little village in Cádiz (Spain), you have to go eat at El Califa, it is a wonderful culinary experience.

I use the recipe from The Gourmet Cookbook. The first time I made it I loved it. This time, I had to substitute some of the vegetables to use up the things that were in my fridge, and I liked it even more.

Lamb tagine with vegetables, prunes and dried apricots
Adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook, serves 4.

Tagine gets its name from the dish in which is traditionally cooked in the north of Africa. It is a shallow ceramic casserole with a conical lid. If you have one, that's what you should use to make this, but if you don't, just use whatever you have, as did I.

You can substitute any vegetables you like for the ones in this recipe. Good ones are summer squash, winter squash or sweet potato. I really like the prunes and apricots, but I guess you can also use raisins or other dried fruits instead.

2 lb (1 kg) lamb shoulder 
1 onion, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
1 pinch of saffron threads, crumbled
2 carrots, pealed and sliced
2 small parsnips, pealed and chopped or sliced
3/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
2/3 cup prunes
1/2 cup dried apricots
2 tsp honey
1 pinch of grated nutmeg or to taste
Olive oil, salt and pepper

Cut lamb from bones and cut into 1-inch pieces. In a cast-iron pot or skillet or just regular pot heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. Sear the lamb meat and bones, in batches, about 5 minutes per batch or until golden brown on all sides. Transfer to a plate.

Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to pot and add onion and celery. Cook over medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Return meat and bones to pot. Add 1 1/2 cup (350 ml) of water, saffron and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover and simmer for about 1 1/4 hours, stirring occasionally, until meat is tender.

Use a slotted spoon to transfer the lamb to a plate. Discard the bones. Add carrot and parsnip to pot, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes, until vegetables are barely tender. Add ginger, cinnamon, prunes and apricots. Cover and cook for 5 minutes, until fruits and vegetables are tender.

Return lamb to pot. Add honey and season with more salt and pepper if necessary. Sprinkle with nutmeg to taste. Simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 5 more minutes. Serve with couscous.