Lamb tagine with dates and sweet potatoes

Lamb Tagine step-by-step Dish prepared by Richard Hughes, Lavender House, Brundall March 2015 Pictu

Lamb Tagine step-by-step Dish prepared by Richard Hughes, Lavender House, Brundall March 2015 Picture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2015

Explore the wonderful tastes of North Africa with this warming dishes, says Richard Hughes of the Lavender House in Brundall.

This dish will transport you to sunnier climates with a hat tip to North African-inspired cookery which has been influenced over several centuries by traders, travellers, invaders, migrants and immigrants. It’s a recipe which offers up a veritable melting pot of colours, textures and tastes, all designed to impart maximum flavour. I love the combinations from this style of cuisine, the sweet yet spicy cinnamon, warming ginger and red peppers, sweet honey, fragrant saffron and cumin, salty preserved lemons and coriander. The list seems to be endless. I normally preach that less is more when it comes to cooking but there are always exceptions where you need to pack in the flavours to set your senses tingling.

There’s also the combination of fruit with meat, inexpensive grains and pulses and most important of all, the simple presentation of big dishes that are perfect for sharing.

Though the list of ingredients in this recipe may seem daunting and appear to indicate a complicated dish, in actual fact most Moroccan, Lebanese and Algerian food is very simple, very quick and very tasty! We have some terrific places to eat this style of food here in the county, my favourites are the Marrakech Restaurant in Wymondham and a little place that I’m betting most of you pass by without ever noticing it’s there. The Three Ways Lebanese restaurant (above a travel agent) on Brigg Street has been quietly serving up unpretentious, delicious food which is tremendous value and authentic, just like this dish of slow-cooked spiced lamb with dried fruits topped with almonds, yogurt, coriander and pomegranate.

Richard Hughes is chef proprietor of the Lavender House at Brundall and the Richard Hughes Cookery School. He is also director of The Assembly House, Norwich,

Lamb tagine with dates and sweet potatoes

Serves four

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3tbsp olive oil

2 onions, thinly sliced

4 cloves garlic

1tbsp finely chopped fresh root ginger

1kg boneless lamb shoulder or leg, cut into 5cm chunks

2tsp ground cumin

1tsp each paprika and ground coriander

1 cinnamon sticks

400ml passata or chopped tinned tomatoes

400ml chicken/lamb/vegetable stock

350g sweet potatoes, cut into chunks

100g pitted dates

75g dried figs

To serve

50g blanched almonds, toasted

Good handful coriander, roughly chopped

Pomegranate seeds

Greek yoghurt

1 Trim and dice the lamb into 5cm chunks (your butcher will do this for you).

2 Sprinkle the lamb with the cumin, the paprika and the ground coriander.

3 Add a tablespoon of olive oil and stir into the lamb, distributing the spices.

4 Heat the oil in a large, deep pan. Add the onions and the ginger, then gently fry until softened, about five minutes.

5 Meanwhile cut the figs into quarters, leave the dates whole.

6 Dice the peeled sweet potatoes.

7 Place the softened onion into casserole.

8 Fry the meat on all sides until lightly coloured. Add to the casserole.

9 Add the dates and figs.

10 Add the cinnamon stick.

11 Add the passata.

12 Add the sweet potatoes.

13 Add the stock.

14 Bring to the boil, stirring. Season well, then cover and simmer for one-and-a-half to two hours, until the lamb is tender.

To serve, top with the chopped coriander, the pomegranate seeds, toasted almonds and the yoghurt. Serve with couscous for a truly authentic dish.