- The Washington Times - Monday, January 5, 2004

Warm cinnamon and saffron combine with coriander and cumin to lend complex flavor to this Moroccan-style dish.

Further details of interest: The recipe is from a feature suggesting ways holiday spices can give meals a festive touch year-round. And the feature is among items in Cooking Light’s December issue, which explains the dish’s welcome low-fat rating.

Here, adding the spice in two stages gives depth and brightness, Brian Glover writes. Leaving the cinnamon whole keeps its influence subtle. Moroccan tagines tend to be warmly and sweetly spiced, rather than hot.

The tagine is named after the conical-lidded earthenware casserole in which it is traditionally cooked. This festive dish is served over couscous to soak up the gravy.

Lamb tagine with cinnamon, saffron and dried fruit

¼ cup diced seeded Anaheim chili

1 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted (see note)

1 teaspoon coriander seeds, toasted

1 teaspoon grated, peeled fresh ginger

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon paprika

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black peppercorns

2 garlic cloves, minced

Cooking spray

1½-pound boneless leg of lamb, trimmed and cubed

3 cups chopped onion

½ cup tomato puree

2½ cups water

23/4 cups green bell pepper, cut into 1-inch-thick strips

2 cups cubed butternut squash

1 cup cubed carrot

¼ teaspoon saffron threads

3-inch cinnamon stick

⅔ cup dried apricots, cut into ¼-inch strips

4½ cups cooked couscous

¼ cup minced fresh cilantro

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine Anaheim chili, cumin, coriander, ginger, salt, paprika, ground peppercorns and garlic.

Heat a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add lamb; cook 8 minutes on all sides or until browned. Remove lamb from pan. Add onion to pan; cook 5 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently. Stir in half of chili mixture and tomato puree; cook 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in lamb and water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 5 minutes.

Wrap handle of skillet with foil, and bake, covered, at 325 degrees for 1 hour. Stir in bell pepper, squash, carrot, saffron and cinnamon. Cover, and bake an additional 15 minutes. Stir in remaining chili mixture and apricots. Cover, and bake an additional 15 minutes. Remove cinnamon stick; serve tagine over couscous. Sprinkle with cilantro.

Makes 6 servings (serving size about 1 cup tagine and 3/4 cup couscous).

Note: To roast spices, heat the whole spices in a dry pan to release their natural volatile oils and bring out their full aroma and flavor. Use a small, heavy skillet. Add the whole spices (Roasting ground spices tends to turn them bitter, so is best avoided.) and place over a gentle heat. Shake the pan, or stir with a wooden spatula to keep the spices on the move, and toast gently for 2 to 3 minutes. Some spices, including mustard and poppy seeds, pop when they are ready; others darken.

The essential sign is that the spice becomes aromatic and smells toasty. Tip into a bowl to cook before grinding — preferably with a mortar and pestle.

Remember, a coffee grinder can crush most spices, especially tough ones such as cinnamon and cloves; clean the grinder afterward by grinding a small piece of bread or a couple of tablespoons of raw rice.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

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