I might have called this 'Pig Cheeks in Mulled Wine' since the sauce contains many of the same ingredients - red wine, cinnamon, orange peel - and has the same spiced-wine Christmassy aroma. And when I purchased the ingredients this morning, I happened upon bottles of ready-made mulled wine in Tesco and wondered if I should buy half a case in readiness for my Christmas concert.....

I have a great fondness for Middle Eastern food, though I have yet to travel in this region. I love the combination of fruit, meat and spices in a tagine, cooked slowly so that all the flavours meld together perfectly. I like mezze, little dishes to eat with a hunk of pide (Turkish flatbread) and a group of friends, and I love Middle Eastern sweetmeats like baklava and halva. Much as I love the food of India (and I travelled around northern India when I was a student), I think Middle Eastern food is far more interesting - and less likely to blow your head off with its chili content! The ingredients are relatively easy to come by: I am fortunate in that where I work on Mondays, I am only a short walk from Goldborne Road and its Arab supermarkets where I buy orange flower and rose water, fiery harissa, preserved lemons, and merguez (spiced lamb sausages).

This recipe is in fact two recipes rolled into one: it is based on a classic tagine made with lamb and prunes, and a Nigel Slater recipe for slow-cooked oxtail with prunes and orange. I dispensed with all the chopping, frying and browning, opting instead for my usual method for making any slow-cooked casserole or tagine: throw it all in a pot and cook slowly for three hours. I used pig cheeks for my version, because they happened to be in the freezer and I am completely addicted to them at the moment. They really lend themselves to slow-cooking being both succulent and gamey, but shoulder of lamb, oxtail or beef would work equally well. And don't worry if you don't like prunes much: they cook down so much as to be virtually unrecognisable, and make the sauce rich, thick and sweet.

Serves 2 generously

500g meat (diced lamb shoulder, oxtail, stewing beef, pig cheeks)
1 medium onion, grated
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground cinnamon
500g pitted prunes
A few strips of orange zest, finely sliced
half a bottle of red wine
a dash of orange blossom water
salt and black pepper
olive oil
fresh coriander

Heat the oil in a casserole (I use a Le Creuset or my tagine for this) and fry the grated onion gently until soft. Add the spices and garlic. Then add the meat, prunes, red wine, orange zest and orange blossom water. Check seasoning. Bring up to a simmer and then cook for about 2 hours, or until the sauce has reduced.

Serve with fluffy couscous and plenty of fresh chopped coriander.

I couldn't resist this picture of Beaver brand prunes!

More slow-cooked recipes from Nigel Slater.


Popular posts from this blog