This is a lovely winter warmer – the perfect antidote to the dark, dreary evenings. Although it’s fairly straightforward to make, a good quality cast iron casserole pot (Le Creuset or similar) is a wise investment, as the thick base & sides encourage even heat distribution both on the hob and in the oven; very important when slow cooking casseroles. For the lifestyle conscious it also looks expensively cool.
We blend our own spices but you can successfully use pre-ground ones. If you want to go the extra mile then place 3 cloves and 1 tablespoon each of cumin, coriander and fennel seeds in a frying pan. Cook over a medium heat until they begin to release an aroma. Blitz in a spice grinder until fine. The star anise, cinnamon and lemon peel can be placed whole into the casserole and fished out later, or they can be included in the bouquet garni with the herbs. To make your own bouquet garni place a 15cm square of muslin cloth on the table. Fill with required herbs and spices and fold up tightly to conceal & hold the ingredients. Tie with string. It’s a bag of flavour.
Making your own Harissa is simple if you have a good recipe. Michael, one of my chefs at The Guildford Arms, has perfected his own version. Fiercely hot and intensely aromatic it beats anything you can buy.
Moroccan Spiced Lamb Shank, Roast Parsnip Couscous, Harissa – serves 4
- Pre-heat the oven to 180C.
- Season 4 lamb shanks.
- Heat a thin layer of oil in a cast iron casserole pot and brown the shanks.
- Remove and add a little more oil, then gentle cook 1 diced onion until soft.
- Add 2 chopped cloves of garlic & 1/2 inch of grated ginger & cook for 1 minute.
- Add 1 tsp of ground cumin, 1 tsp of ground coriander & a pinch of saffron.
- Return the lamb to the pot with 1 tbsp of tamarind & the peel from 1 lemon.
- Give it a good stir.
- Add 2 tins of chopped tomatoes & enough water to cover the shanks.
- Add 20 pitted olives, 2 star anise, 1 stick of a cinnamon & a bouquet garni of bay, thyme & rosemary.
- Bring to the boil, then cover & cook in the oven for 2 hours.
- Strain the liquid & boil to reduce to sauce consistency.
Roast Parsnip Couscous
- Peel & quarter 2 parsnips. Cut out the touogh core & cut into 1cm dice.
- Fry in olive oil/butter, then season & roast in the oven until soft.
- Bring 400ml of water to the boil.
- Place 500g of couscous in a large bowl.
- Pour over water and using a fork stir vigorously to separate grains.
- Whilst still hot rub in 40g of butter.
- Mix in the parsnips.
- Flavour to taste with fresh coriander and spices.
- Take 12 red chillies. Remove the seeds from 10 of the 12 chillies, leave 2 whole and roughly chop them all together (this makes the mix quite hot, depending on how hot you like it ether remove all the seeds or add more for more heat).
- Finely chop 4 garlic cloves and add to the chillies in a food processor. Add the juice of 1lemon, 1 tsp of salt and 2 tblsp each of ground fennel, coriander & cumin.
- Blitz in a food processor, adding olive oil a little at a time until you have a paste.
- Remove to an air tight jar and cover with a thin layer of olive oil.
- Keep in fridge for at least 12 hours before using to allow flavours to develop.
- Can be kept in fridge for up to 3 weeks just cover with olive oil after each use to seal in.