Slow cooked meat and root vegetables with gentle warm spices, just a touch of sweetness from the fruit and honey to take the edge off any potential heat and it can only be the unmistakeable Moroccan style stews that satisfy me every time.
The North Africans knew what they were doing when they took a clay pot with raised sides and called it a tagine, enabling them to create moist and tender stews from basic ingredients. I use a domestic casserole pot for my slow braising, and the addition of a few familiar spices and a little honey and fruit are all that are needed to transform an equally beautiful British stew into one that smells and tastes all mysterious and exotic.
Lots of people I speak to received an electric slow cooker off Santa Claus, meaning that they can easily achieve this most delectable of stews to serve with a little cous cous to soak up the juices. And it is a winner for the children too; even the fussiest of children can't help but have their taste buds given a wake up call when sampling something so delicious. Even my current favourite vegetable, the much misunderstood swede, turns into a 'melt in your mouth' treat. Any doubters out there, all I ask of you is to give it a go.
Beef, Prune and Vegetable Stew
2 onions, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
500g topside beef, cut into large chunks
1 swede, peeled and cut into cubes
Half red cabbage, sliced thinly
2 handfuls dried prunes
2 pears, peeled and sliced thinly
1 tsp each of cumin, coriander and ground ginger
Half tsp each of cinnamon and cayenne
3 tbsp honey
2 handfuls of fresh coriander, including the root
Salt and pepper
Lemon rind, thinly peeled from 1 lemon
1 - Preheat the oven to 160C, FM4.
2 - In a large casserole pot, heat the olive oil and add the onions and garlic. Slowly cook for 10 minutes until beginning to colour.
3 - Add the spices, remaining vegetables and beef. Warm through for 5 minutes, and then pour over enough water to just about cover it. Stir through the coriander, honey and lemon rind. Bring to the boil then cover and place in the oven for 2 hours.
4 - Taste for seasoning. Serve with cous cous and fresh coriander.