Friday, 27 September 2013

Do Ahead, Fuss Free Beef Tagine

I have a friend who appears to be THE social butterfly of London. If you want to see her you need to book at least a month in advance. Ive been trying to pin her down for months now, no exaggeration. Her thing? Dinner parties.  I often receive emails from her in the week discussing menus and my thoughts on adapting recipes in order for them to be cooking 90% in advance with only the finishing touches to do. As far as I'm concerned everyone god host should take a leaf out of her book. She manages to work a busy 9-6.30 job in the city and throw a 3 course dinner party most weeks.

I dedicate this blog post to her. This is a dish that has to be done in advance in order to fulfil it maximum flavour potential which means that all one has to do is throw on the rice when you get in from work and put it on to reheat. It has enough in it that people not eating carbs would be satisfied without the rice and also macho enough to stand up to a room full of hungry boys without doing extra dishes. Perfect in my book.

As I have mentioned previously am I currently staying with friends and I was asked to make this dish so it could be frozen and taken to someone next week. I have stolen many a recipe off F and I had a hankering this would be equally as delish so I documented as I went along just incase I wanted to share it. I do. It's aces.

So here we have it: Do ahead, fuss free beef tagine. This recipe is also fairly cheap, provided you have a well stocked spice cupboard. I suggest stocking up, spices last for a long time and you can get many a great dish out of them. This recipes uses fresh herbs. Don't be tempted to skip on them and use dried, its jut not the same.

600g stewing beef
1 onion
1 small bunch fresh coriander
400g tinned chickpeas, drained
400 g tinned tomatoes
800ml chicken or veg stock
1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped into 5cm chunks (fork sized)
100g prunes, stoned
2 tablespoons flaked toasted almonds

salt, pepper
1 tbsp ras el hanout (you can find this in Sainsbury's, promise)
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tbsp ginger
1 tbsp sweet paprika

As this is done in stages, I've done some pictures to go with them. First up, spicy meat massage. Now for this bit you could actually rub the beef a day before and leave it overnight, if not, you do have to leave it at least 2 hours. At the very bare minimum.

Chuck all the spices in with the beef and give it a good rub. Really get your hands dirty and show that beef some love.

Now cover it up and leave it in the fridge to get all tasty. 

Once the time is up you can move on to the next stage. Grab your meat out the fridge, dice your onions and take all the leaves off your coriander. The best way to chop and onion is to keep the end on the onion, slice lengthways and then sideways. That way you keep an even dice without the onion falling apart. 

Heat the olive oil in a big Le Creuset and start to fry the meat in batches. Frying in batches means that the meat browns all over and gets the great caramelised outside which is what makes the flavour.

Once all the meat is browed chuck in the onions and coriander stalks and combine thoroughly. Give it 5 mins and throw in the tinned tomatoes and drained chickpeas. Putting liquid into a pan 'deglazes' it which means all the spices that stuck to the bottom of the pan come off. Make sure you stir deep down to the bottom of the pan to get all those bits up and make sure they get into the sauce. Yeah buddy.

Again, mix well and add half the chicken stock. Use some of the stock to wash out the tomato tins so you don't waste a drop. Bring this up to the boil, turn down to a simmer, cover and cook for an hour and a half.

Whilst this is cooking, peel and chop the butternut squash. Use a teaspoon to scoop out the seeds. Then de-stone the prunes (if they need it) and roughly chop them. Set these aside until the hour and a half is up. Grab a glass of wine while you wait. 

Once the hour an a half is up throw in the squash and prunes. Its at this point that you are meant to add the rest of the stock but as you can see from the photos, mine didn't need it. Don't worry if you need to add it to yours. Everything cooks differently, just use your judgment call. Give a gentle stir, enough to mix it all but not so much it breaks up the beef. 

Give it a little taste and whack in some more seasoning if need be. Remember salt awakens all favours so don't shy away from it. I once knew a guy who didn't believe in salt and thought all added salt was bad for you, he didn't even own any in his house. I tried buying him salt and explaining to him what it actually did but he still didn't get it. Needless to say we aren't friends anymore. I could have had more enlightening conversations with a fence though so it wasn't a devastating loss. 

Clamp the lid back on this little well seasoned beauty and leave for another hour and a half. When that time is up your ready to roll. At this point you can either leave it in the fridge or eat it. All you need to do is sprinkle with the coriander leaves and toasted almond flakes and serve with cooked rice. 

I was making this for someone else so I don't have any final pictures of it but it proves how its a perfect example of something that can be made and left. Frozen even. So say you had a dinner party on the thursday, but the ingredients and rub the meat on Tuesday night. Then do the cooking on the Wednesday, ready to serve up on Thursday. It's stewing beef which is a cheap cut of meat but when slow cooked, such as this, it becomes melty and divine in a rich thick sauce. 

So my little dinner party queen, use this one and you'll be able to spend time with your guests and wow them. Take your bow. 


  1. Looks nice, I would visit a butcher for the beef though. I guess your in London, there are some good ones in London. I hope to visit The Butchery in November, I will report my results. I live on the edge, the edge of Dartmoor, so I have high standards. The guy from the butchery I think served me in Barbecoa, very knowledgeable he was too. I like your blog.

    1. Thanks so much for your comment! Im glad you like the blog. You're right, I should visit a butcher. Once I'm more settled down I will.

  2. Ooh yummy ! Sadly I don't cook a lot of beef at home. I prefer fish and the occasional chicken breast. I leave beef for eating out, as I tend to be rather crap at cooking tasty meat :)

    Natasha (наташа)

    1. Hi Natasha! You should cook beef at home! I find its one of the most forgiving meats. Go and get yourself some tasty beef and give it a go. :)