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Jan 11, 2013

Shirazine Tagine Pilaf!

We ate Moroccan the other day and it blew our minds! I rarely say that for meals outside of my kitchen mainly because after having eaten so much good food over the years, the 'wow' factor is getting harder and harder to find. New cuisine's are the only option of finding 'umami' over and over again. You know how they say, do we all see colours the same way, I feel that about taste too, do we all taste flavours the same way? So for me, 'umami' is not certain foods only but also how your palate perceives them. I don't taste it in truffles, I taste it in Arab dried limes, seriously!! So this lamb 'pulao' I tried wasn't really made in a tagine, it was inspired by all the Moroccan flavours from that night and ingredients and visuals too, how my plate would look if I mixed lamb tagine with fluffy, white rice!

I cook the lamb separately and rice is boiled and the water is discarded, I keep it 'almost' done because it will do time in the oven as well. Preferred cuts for the lamb or mutton are from the shoulder, round, meaty pieces, on the bone. The spices I use are all whole and though I source dried limes from the Gulf, they are available in specialty stores. To substitute I tried a quarter of a large lime (the big yellow ones from the mountains), it wasn't exactly the same but it added a nice citric kick. I also use dried plums in biryani's and pulao's quite often, they are just right when you want to balance spicy-tangy-sweet. You can use plum sauce as well, a tbsp or so but it's very Asian for my palate.

Lamb/Mutton 750 gms
Onions, finely sliced, 2
Garlic Cloves 6-8 small or 3-4 big, smashed 
Black Cardamom 2
Green Cardamom 5
Cloves 6
Cinnamon 1whole stick
Bay leaf 2
Dried Lime 1
Garam Masala 1 tbsp
Paprika 1 tsp
Sugar 1 tbsp or 1 dried plum
Hot water 1 cup
Olive Oil 6 tbsp
Salt

Wash and pat dry the lamb/mutton, marinate with salt and paprika, keep in the fridge, it marinates better in the cold. Heat 3 tbsp of olive oil in a pressure cooker (I don't pressure cook the meat, I just give it one whistle before serving/assembling so meat the opens up, it's already tender from the braising). Throw in the garlic and it brown slightly, add the onions, keep the flame high and get them transparent and on the verge of caramelizing that kind of keeps them sweet-ish. The rest of oil will be used to roast the whole spices which you can do in a small pan or baby wok. So fry the whole spices separately and add the whole thing to the onions and garlic. Add the meat and keep the heat up, let the meat sear, move it around and mix the whole thing up nicely. This should take around 5 minutes, after which you can add the Garam masala, dried lime, sugar or a dried plum and salt. Fold it all in, put in 1/2 cup of hot water, lower the flame and cover with a heavy lid, no need to pressure cook. mix and check in about 20 minutes, add the rest of the hot water, cover and cook for another 20-25 minutes, keep an eye on it, you can add little more hot water only to keep the meat moist not to make a curry. Check the meat, it should be nice and tender, you can give it one whistle but check that there is ample moisture (not a lot). Boil the rice while the meat cooks, drain and layer in a low, flat baking dish. Layer the meat on top once done, you can sprinkle burnt onions, blanches almonds and even roasted raisins on the top. Cover with foil and bake for 10 minutes on 200 C.

I served this with our kitchen's all time favourite garlic dip/dressing/topping 'thoum', a combination of fresh garlic paste, yoghurt and mayonnaise. Try serving this fresh orange or 'keenu' wedges, it is just superb! Enjoy!
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