Cooking for a crowd is nerve wracking; and while everyone I know is wracked with Thanksgiving nerves I'm focusing on a different kind of anxiety: twenty for dinner at my house the week after Thanksgiving. This is an interesting project because I'm a) on a major budget b) determined to make it delicious and c) insistent on spending time with the guests, rather than sweating over the stove.
After weeks of fussing and futzing over the menu I've determined to make a tagine. They are delicious, festive, and while not exactly easy, they reward the effort you put into them. After recipe testing for the past few months I've found the most truly divine recipe from a book called Medina Kitchen: Home Cooking From North Africa. I've modified it a bit, and man is it good. "Ambrosial stuff, straight from the gods" the book says and is that true. Since this is the centerpiece of my menu I will start here:
Prune and apricot tagine:
serves 4-6 generously (you can double or triple) (also the first part is *better* made ahead)
9 oz canola oil
pinch of salt
1 Tbsp butter, melted
3 Tbsp ground coriander seeds [yes, Tablespoons]
3 Tbsp ground ginger
3 Tbsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 3/4 -2 1/4 shoulder of lamb, cut into chunks [this is important; you want the shoulder not the leg]
4-5 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 Tbsp finely chopped coriander leaves
2 Tbsp finely chopped parsley
2-3 Tbsp water
2 large onions, peeled and diced
10 ounces pitted prunes
6 ounces pitted apricots
pinch of ground cinnamon
5 Tbsp sugar
large knob of butter
1 Tbsp rose water
1 cinnamon stick
1 - In a large bowl, mix the oil, salt butter, spices, and turmeric. Add the lamb and turn to coat. Allow to marinate in the fridge for 1 or 2 hours.
2- Transfer the lamb, with the marinade, into a large, deep saucepan. Cook over a high heat, stirring continuously for a few minutes. Add the garlic and herbs. Keep the meet moving around, then add the water, cover and simmer hard for another 10 minutes.
3- Add the onions and more water if neccesary and cook, covered, for another twenty minutes. Cover the lamb with water and simmer, covered for about 1 and half hours. This is the point to stop and refrigerate if you are making this the day before. If you are making it all on the same day, continue on!
4- Prepare the prunes and apricots. Put the prunes in a pan of water and simmer, covered for 20-30 minutes, until they are soft and swollen and the water has reduced down slightly. Add the cinnamon stick and 2-3 tablespoons of sugar, then stir in the butter, then the rose water. Shake the pan to settle the ingredients but make sure not to break up the prunes. Prepare the apricots in the same way, minus the butter and rosewater, and adding the cinnamon stick in place of the ground cinnamon.
5- When the lamb is done -- or when you have re-heated it out of the fridge (stick it on the stove approximately half an hour before your guests are due so you don't have to worry) --- transfer it onto a wide platter. Arrange the prunes and apricots over the lamb. Pour the meat sauces around the edge and garnish with a sprinkle of sesame seeds.
This is such a great recipe. The lamb comes out just insanely delicious, and the fruit is so good with it. Of course it needs to be served with couscous but that's for tomorrow's post...
COOKING FOR A CROWD/MOROCCAN MENU [serves 20]
prune and apricot tagine
sauteed broccoli and cauliflower
All this and more to come including what to drink...