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Hell's Kitchen: Beef Tagine

If any of you have been watching Nigel Slater's Eating Together on Monday nights, you may well have been dribbling over the lamb tagine that featured last week. I know I was, but I felt happy in the knowledge that I had slaved over a good old hunk of stewing steak during my imposed cook-off and had a rich, fragrant tagine of my own to look forward to, safely ensconced in the freezer. It made the fact that my kitchen looks like this a look easier to take:

Tagine in my opinion always calls for some form of dried fruit and I maintain that this is the case even if you don't think you like fruit in your food. Look, neither do I (aside from a bit of mango salsa) but you really must have the sweetness of something like prunes, apricots or pomegranate to properly temper the earthiness of cumin and rich stock. Aside from that, I tend to make up different recipes each time I cook tagine, depending on what I've got in the cupboard - in this instance I was trying to make use of the meat, so used the beef instead of more usual lamb.

You will need:

Serves 3-4

250g stewing / braising steak


3 cloves garlic

Handful dried apricots

Handful golden raisins

Red pepper

Celery stick


Tsp ground cumin

Tsp raas el hanout

Tbsp harissa paste

Plenty of stock (I used chicken)

Couscous, if you like

Lemon juice


Dice the beef and seal in a hot pan with a glug of olive oil. Don't be afraid of colouring the meat significantly; it will equal big flavour. After five minutes or so, turn the heat down and soften the onions and garlic with the cumin and raas el hanout. Chop the celery and carrot as finely as you can manage, then add along with the fruit, harissa and stock to cover. Chuck in some chunky pepper and transfer the pan to the oven and leave to do its thing at about 160C for a couple of hours, checking for stock levels sporadically. I added a sprinkling of couscous right at the end, as this is how I had it in Marrakech. Of course, you could have a separate serving of it if you prefer, but this way it soaks up all the lovely juices.

Then, if you're cooking for the freezer, try very hard not to eat it all and instead put it straight in some freezer safe tupperware away from wanting hands and mouths. When you're finally ready to eat it, it's one of those few dishes (like curries, ragu etc) that actually improve with the wait. Simply microwave away and serve with lots of fresh herbs and more lemon. A swirl of yoghurt is nice too.

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