the long commute back home from work, rushing off to meet friends to at the pub, trying to fit in time for the gym. This action packed life meant that when we cooked we cooked quickly: a stir fry, a quick pasta dish. And when we did, it often came at a cost: flavour.
One of the hidden benefits of this new slower life, that has been thrust upon us, is that we can now monitor a slowly simmering pot as we exercise in the garden, talk shit over zoom and commute from the living room to the kitchen. There’s no better time than to sketch your culinary legs than with a tender Moroccan beef and apricot stew.
While this might not be a strictly authentic Moroccan Tagine, it’s the flavour that counts and this dish certainly has that in abundance. Plus, who has a Tagine pot lying around?
This recipe is by no means an exact science. Chop and change ingredients depending what is available.
- Olive oil
- 850g diced beef (lamb also works well)
- 2 red onions, roughly chopped
- 6 garlic gloves, thinly sliced
- 2 tps ras al hanout (make it yourself from those neglected spices you have at the back of the cupboard, you have the time)
- A few splashes of red wine (optional, although hopefully you’ll be sipping this at the time anyway)
- 2 tps of harissa
- 3 tps of tomato paste
- 2 tps of honey
- 4-5 small potatoes, halved
- 600ml of stock
- 4 tbs of red lentils
- Toasted flaked almonds
- Parsley, roughly chopped
Heat olive oil over a high heat in a heavy bottomed pot (a dutch oven works best). In batches brown the beef so as to avoid over crowding and then take the meat and juices out of the pan set aside.
Add a small amount of oil to the pan, followed by the red onions and garlic. Let the onions cook over until they are translucent. Now you can start layering your flavours. First add the ras al honout (all of those left over spices sitting in your drawer that you promised yourself you’d use one day, this is your chance) and stir. Then add wine, harissa, tomato paste and honey. Return the meat and juices to the pot, followed by the chunks of potato. Cook gently for 1-2 minutes and then pour over the stock.
Bring the pot to a boil then cover and transfer to a pre-heated oven 160C/140C fan/gas 3 for 2h 30m (if you don’t have a pot that can be put in the oven, leave it on the hob on a low heat for 1h 30m or until the beef is tender). Add the lentils with around 30m to go and the apricots with 15m to go. If you have a slow cooker, you can always use that for added tenderness.
Toast almonds on a dry pan for 2-3 minutes until golden. Serve the stew on a bed of couscous topped with almonds, parsley and a dollop of greek yoghurt.
Stews always benefit from resting in a pot for a day or so, which gives the flavours an opportunity to get to know one and other a little more. So don’t be surprised if tomorrow’s leftovers overshadow today’s main event.