Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Lamb and Prune Tagine in a Pumpkin

Lacking the traditional cooking vessel (called a tagine), I've always used either a slow cooker or a casserole dish to make Moroccan tagines (stews that are cooked in the vessel by the same name)--but in a stroke of brilliance it occurred to me to cook it inside a pumpkin.

It was fantastic, and the presentation was everything that is autumn.

I served the dish with a bulgur wheat-orzo pilaf (seasoned only with a bit of lemon juice), and only that because couscous at my local market was just too darned expensive by comparison, and I justified the substitution with an argument for whole grains. I felt that the accompaniment was good, though I wish I had thought to stir in some chick peas for added texture.

The soft pumpkin flesh offered a lovely counterpoint to the tagine, which was lightly spicy with a delightfully complex blend of spices. The cinnamon was certainly in the forefront here, and clung beautifully to the meat that melted in your mouth.

Lamb and Prune Tagine in a Pumpkin
serves 2 generously

1 small pie pumpkin, rinsed, dried, top removed (reserved) and seeds and strings removed (wash and roast those seeds for a healthy snack!)
olive oil
1 pound lamb (I used 3 small lamb shoulder chops and 2 chuck eye steaks because that's what I had on hand)
1 large onion, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
5 ounces dried plums (prunes), chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-1/2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chopped dried orange zest (optional)
1/4 teaspoon ground tumeric
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
pinch saffron
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 cups chicken broth

When you wash the pumpkin be certain it doesn't have any cuts that would cause your stew to leak out. You can wrap the exterior with aluminum foil if you wish.

Place empty pumpkin and lid on a greased or nonstick sheet pan. Make sure it's stable and doesn't roll around (might need to use a springform pan ring or foil snake here for stabilization).

In a large saucepan, brown meat well in olive oil on all sides. Remove meat and place in pumpkin. In remaining oil, saute onion and carrots until onions are transparent. Add dried plums, garlic and ginger and cook until garlic is fragrant. Immediately stir in paprika, cinnamon, salt, coriander, cumin, orange zest, tumeric, cayenne, cloves and saffron. Squeeze lemon juice over, then pour in chicken broth. Stir, scraping the bottom to release any browned bits.

Transfer entire mixture to pumpkin. Replace the pumpkin's lid and bake in a preheated 250*F for 2-3 hours, or until the pumpkin flesh is soft.

NOTE: I had more filling than would fit into my pumpkin, so I used a 2nd casserole dish with a lid for the rest.

Serve hot with couscous or bulgur wheat, scooping out cooked pumpkin flesh with your tagine.

We didn't bother with dessert after this one--we were stuffed! If I had served this for supper, I would have finished with some simple dates stuffed with almonds, drizzled with honey and lightly dusted with cardamom.

This is my entry for Waiter, There's Something in my... Gourd! event hosted by Cooksister! See all of the fantastic creations at the roundup--here are lots of holiday ideas for your table!


Sam said...

I love the presentation! cool idea!

Amanda said...

Thanks, Sam! It was a fun way to serve the food--and really highlighted the seasonal portion of the meal.

Michele Humes said...

This is so cute.

You might enjoy this recipe by Ruth Reichl:

My friend made it for me once and it was deliciously rich.

Michele Humes said...

P.S. Ruth notes: "Another helpful hint: If you brush the outside of the pumpkin with oil, it will look better when it emerges. "

Amanda said...

Thanks for the link to that gratin-in-a-pumpkin--wow, Michele, it looks fantastic! I have to bring something to an autumn party next weekend, and that might just be the thing!

Amanda said...

It makes me think of inside-out fondue.

Jeanne said...

Oh wow - that's one of the cleverst uses for a pumpkin I have ever seen! I love tagines anyway and can imagine that the pumpkin flesh would be delicious served with those warm, spice lamb chunks. Thanks for an inspirational entry for WTSIM! Gourd bless!!

Amanda said...

Thanks so much, Jeanne. It was super delicious--I've been thinking about it ever since that day. I must make more!

Elizabeth said...

I adore tagines - we usually make ours in a wok (with prunes AND apricots) but what a cool idea to use a pumpkin as the vessel. You're brilliant


Amanda said...

Thank you, Elizabeth! Though I'm not sure it was brilliance as much as one of those "aha" moments. We enjoy tagines (in any form) here, too. I'll have to try apricots next time--yum!

BTW, I love the name Elizabeth--it's the name of my favorite aunt. :)

Anonymous said...

This is such a clever idea, Amanda! The pumpkin must have tasted amazing when scooped out afterwards.

Beautiful presentation, too!

Amanda said...

Thanks so much, Angela!

Since making this dish, I made another batch of the stew (in a pot) using two chicken thigh-leg pieces and two boneless pork chops. Although it was also delicious, it just wasn't as good without the pumpkin.

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