Gastropub of Fran reopens tonight; closed last Friday because I was away, my regular dinner guest, friend and Scrabble champ, Nick will be joining me to try a new dish, a Lamb Tangia from Jamie Oliver's foodie tour guide 'Jamie Does.....'. Although I only saw Nick two weeks ago, we have been behaving as if it's a lifetime - "will be great to catch up", "looking forward to seeing you" were some of the text exchanges yesterday. Whether we will be up to post-supper Scrabble remains to be seen....

I have a lot of time for Lovable Jamie, despite his Mockney accent and all that "pukka this" and "pukka that". He cares passionately about what he does, yet he delivers his message in an accessible way. His recipes are consistently excellent and I often return to his earliest cookbooks for favourite dishes. In his book and tv series 'Jamie Does.....', he visited Greece, Sweden, Morocco, Spain and France, cooking a selection of regional favourites, and adding a few twists of his own. Possibly the funniest moment of the series was when the Swedish family he was staying with (during which he made the most amazing beetroot Gravadlax - a dish I intend to attempt very soon) all went skinny-dipping in the fjord after dinner. For once, Jamie was lost for words - and there was no way he was going to strip off and join them....

A tangia is, like a tagine, both the name of a dish and the vessel in which it is cooked. A tangia is a large earthenware lidded pot, similar in shape to an ancient amphora. In Moroccan towns and villages people still take their tangias to the local communal oven and leave them there for several hours while the contents slow cook. I do not possess a tangia, so I have used a Le Creuset casserole dish. The mixture of meat and vegetables will cook for a long time, by which time the water will have evaporated leaving, succulent lamb and tender vegetables with a sheen of oil, saffron and butter. I'm going to serve it with 'favourite salad' (spinach & feta salad) and homemade flat bread. Pudding is baklava, bought from Waitrose, because I haven't got time to make my own, and besides, Waitrose baklava is pretty damn good.

Simple Lamb Tangia

Serves 4-6

small handful of mixed olives, stones in
2 small preserved lemons, roughly chopped
good lug of olive oil
large pinch of saffron
2 carrots, roughly chopped
2 leeks, trimmed & roughly chopped
350g baby new potatoes
1 bulb of garlic, unpeeled cloves separated and crushed with the back of a knife
800g neck of lamb fillet, cut into 10cm pieces
2 tbsp 'smen' (fermented butter) or butter
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

Oven 150C. Put all the vegetables & saffron in a casserole with a lid, pour over a good lug of olive oil, add the butter and place the lamb on top. Season, then cover with water. Cook for around 3 hours, or until the lamb is tender and falling apart. Check to make sure it does not dry out - not should it be watery. Serve with warm flat breads.


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