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Venison and squash tagine

Forget Jamie’s 30 minute meals, fast cooking for me is all about casseroles, curries and tagines; cooked in the time it takes to find and boil the peas. Certainly faster than calling for a takeaway.

Well almost. It would be more accurate to say reheats in the time it takes find and boil the peas. But that’s exactly what’s so great about them- they can be reheated and reheating only makes them better. These aren’t cold leftovers hidden at the back of the fridge they are your own supply of the most delicious ready meals; perfect to freeze in suitable sized portions for busy evenings.

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Cooking meals like this is also very easy and does not take too long. This one takes around 20mins of chopping and frying before it is put in the oven to and left to work its magic and the margin of error is huge, so if you are good at burning your food or always worries about undercooking this is perfect for you.

This particular tagine uses venison which is surprisingly affordable and available from the butcher at this time of year but you can certainly use beef if it is easier to get hold of. The addition of the butternut squash means you don’t need too much meat which is great if you are watching the pennies or your weight.

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Recipe

Serves 8-10 (eat half now, freezer half)

Adapted from BBC Good Food

1.2kg butternut squash, peeled deseeded and cut into inch cubes (weight once prepared)
3tbsp vegetable oil
500g shallots
900g stewing venison or beef, cut into large pieces
2tbsp cumin seeds
2tbsp coriander seeds
2tsp black peppercorns
2 cinnamon sticks
4 cloves
Large bunch of coriander (about 40g), leaves set aside and stems chopped
30g ginger, peeled and finely chopped/ grated (I use my superfine grater – works a dream)
6 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped/ grated (again I use my superfine grater)
2 red chillies, seeds removed or left in dependent on your preference, finely chopped.
1tsp saffron (if you have it/ can get hold of it)
800ml chicken stock
16 pitted prunes, halved
4tbsp/ 60ml pomegranate mollasses
Cous cous to serve
Plain yoghurt to serve

  • Pre-heat the oven to 180, toss the cubed butternut squash in a tablespoon of oil and bake in the over for 30mins until just tender
  • Meanwhile heat a couple of teaspoons of oil in a large heavy based casserole pan, add the shallots and cook gently over a low to medium heat for at least 10mins until softening and golden, stirring every now and then. Remove from the pan and set aside. Add a tablespoon of oil, turn the heat up and brown the venison; you want to do this in batches (about a handful at a time) so that the meat fries rather than steams, fry a batch (making sure the meat has gone a deep brown around the edge for extra flavour), remove it, add the next and keep going until all the meat is done. Set the pan and meat aside whilst you prepare the spices
  • For the spices heat a pan without any oil in it over a medium to high heat, add the cumin, coriander seeds, peppercorns, cloves and cinnamon stick and heat carefully, stirring often to stop them burning. This is intended to start them releasing their oils and so will give off a wonderful smell. Remove them from the heat after a couple of minutes, crush all the spices bar the cinnamon with a pestle and mortar or in a spice grinder until they have turned to powder. Add the coriander stalks, ginger, garlic, chili and salt and crush/ blitz to a paste adding a little water if you are finding it hard
  • Return the pan to the heat with the meat, spice paste and cinnamon stick and fry for a couple of minutes stirring often (add a little water if it starts to stick). Add the saffron and stock and bring to a simmer, cover with a tightly fitting lid or with a sheet of foil and a looser lid to stop the steam escaping a simmer for 1.5 – 2hours, stirring twice throughout. Add the browned shallots, prunes and pomegranate molasses (if you have it) to the meat and allow to bubble away for another half an hour without the lid on to thicken the sauce, adding the butternut squash 10mins before the end to reheat.
  • Stir in most of the coriander leaves, leaving a few for garnish and serve with cous cous and some yoghurt.

This tagine will last in the fridge for a couple of days or the freezer for a few months. When reheating, either from the fridge or freezer go gently, the meat will be very tender and will fall apart if you boil it ferociously.

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