Lamb Tagine with Fennel

The slow cooking method of this tagine brings out the natural sweetness and aniseed flavour of fresh wild or Florentine fennel. Supermarket varieties might need a helping hand, in which case you could add a couple of star anise.

Serves 6 people

1.3 kg (2 ½ lbs) lamb shoulder or leg, cut into 3cm (1 ½”) chunks
4 fennel bulbs
1 medium onion, grated
1 clove of garlic, peeled and crashed
½ cup red olives, such as Kalamatas or Gaetas
1 preserved lemon
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon powdered ginger
¼ teaspoon turmeric
pinch of pulverised saffron
2 tablespoons freshly chopped green coriander
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste

Place the lamb chunks, onion, garlic, spices, herbs and oil in a 5-quart deep casserole. Cover with 225 ml (1/3 pint) water and bring to the boil over high heat. Immediately reduce the heat, cover and simmer over moderate heat until the meat is tender and the sauce has reduced to a thick gravy, about 1 ½ hours. Turn the meat often and add water whenever necessary.

Prepare the fennel by cutting the bulb in quarters lengthwise. Trim the tops and discard the tough core. Cut the inner core crosswise into 5 cm (2″) pieces, wash and drain.

When the lamb is tender, add the fennel and make sure they are covered in water. Cover and cook for 20 minutes, until the fennel are tender and ready. Add the olives, preserved lemons and lemon juice and simmer for 2 minutes.

To serve, arrange the fennel around the rim of your serving dish. Place the lamb at the centre and pour over the sauce. Decorate with the olives and preserved lemons.