This is a delicious veal roast slow cooked in a tagine infused with a fragrant mix of exotic moroccan flavourings. The soft baby veal is marinated with the aromatic spice blend Ras el Hanout and other spices then combined with golden raisins, dried yellow apricots, almonds, lemon zest and saffron, then slow cooked in a tagine in the oven for almost an hour.
The sweetness of the dry fruits with the subtle heat of the red chilli and harissa, the richness of saffron, citrusy lemon zest……………. all these delicious combination of flavours impart a distinct taste to the veal which makes this dish so unique. I did not have apricots this time so had to manage without it even though I love adding it to the meats. Once the meat gets tenderized the exotic aroma fills the air and you can wait no more coz the tantalizing flavours are irresistibly delicious!
The Ras el Hanout is a popular spice blend from North Africa though its name is very much associated with Moroccan Cuisine. Like the Indian Garam masala, the Mediterranean “Baharat spice mix”, Ras el Hanout plays a similar role in Moroccan cuisine. In Arabic it means “head of the shop” or “top shelf” and implies a mixture 30 or more of the merchant’s best spices. But some say it could be a mixture of anywhere from 10 – 100 different spices in different proportions.
It’s authentic recipe is a well guarded secret with the spice merchants of Morocco but it has so many variations and every one of them has their own secret recipe. No two versions of this spice blend are the same, each one having a different flavour combination. The spice merchants hand mix all the exotic ingredients which include rose petals, saffron, cubeb berries, lavender and grains of paradise and many more.
The Ras el Hanout has a sweet peppery and floral undertone and an overall curry like flavour. It is used in tagines, soups, stews, roasted vegetables and also as a marinade on chicken, meat dishes. It is also excellent in potatoes, rice and couscous and is ideal for moroccan dishes like bastilla.
1 lb baby veal
2 large garlic cloves ground
1 tsp harissa powder
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp hot red chilli powder
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp Ras el Hanout (Moroccan spice blend)
a pinch of saffron
1/2 tbs golden raisins
6 dried apricots
1 tbs fresh lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
2 tbs Olive oil
1 tbs butter
1. Clean, remove the skin and rinse the baby veal and cut into medium sized pieces. Rub salt and lemon juice and set aside.
2. Combine together the ground garlic, lemon zest, turmeric, harissa, cumin, and ras el hanout spices and rub them on the veal well. Drizzle some olive oil on it, mix well and let it marinate for around an hour.
3. Transfer the marinated veal to a glazed tagine along with golden raisins, almonds, apricots, saffron and lemon zest, add 1/2 a cup of water, cover with the cap lid and bake in the oven preheated at 350º F for 55 minutes. Check after the first 30 minutes, then again after 15 minutes.
4. Add some more water if the water has dried up and the meat is still not tender. Mine got tender only after 55 minutes and I had to add some more water after 45 minutes as it had dried up.
5. Add 1 – 2 tbs of unsalted butter switch off the oven and let it sit there for another 5 minutes. It soaks up all the juices in the tagine and is soft, juicy and tender.
6. The tantalizing aroma from the ras el hanout spices filled the air which signalled me that the meat is ready. It was soft and juicy and irresistibly flavourful. Serve hot with rice, salad or veggies. Enjoy!
7. I served it with ghee rice, tomato chutney and sautéed green beans. It was an enjoyable meal!
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