In my African childhood, we ate dinner in Middle Eastern restaurants every single Sunday night for eighteen years. The Moroccan, Lebanese, Turkish, Indian, Iranian flavors bring back memories and feelings from my childhood. Every time I smell the sweet, savory spices of tagines, I am transported to the moments when I first tasted these flavors on my tongue.
These were dark little hole-in-the-wall restaurants with beaded strings for doors; a mother or grandmother standing over a tiny stove in the back; a waiter, her relative, placing plates of food we didn’t order all over the table, family specialties. Fancier restaurants with maîtres and head waiters presented us menus and explained the various dishes and their virtues. Whatever style of place, out tables were covered with feasts ensuring we sampled the Middle Eastern world through our taste buds.
There was no such thing as: I don’t want that, I only eat white buttered pasta, No vegetables! How did today’s children get so damn picky? Consider bringing the world into your house through nightly meals. Pay attention to what you feed your children. You are making memories, even though taste, especially through taste.
- 2-1/2 lbs. lamb shoulder
- 2 tbsps. ghee
- 14 oz. can whole tomatoes
- 1 preserved lemon, chopped
- 4 whole garlic cloves, peeled
- 3 small turnips, chopped
- 3 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 fennel bulb
- 4 dates, halved
- Handful baby cippolini onions, peeled
- Ras El Hanout, dry rub plus medium-sized dash
- Coat lamb shoulder in Ras el Hanout dry rub four hours in advance of cooking.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sear shoulder in medium skillet using ghee. Place in tagine dish and layer remaining ingredients on top.
- Put tagine (lid on) in the oven. After about an hour and a half of cooking, the aromas will begin to round out. The dish is done in two and a half/three hours, when meat is falling off the bone.
- Enjoy adding these exotic tastes to your very own flavor bank!