d'Artagnan - the 4th of the 3 Musketeers

Today's recipes are: Fruity Moroccan Lamb Tagine; and Couscous 101
Sally, my bosom buddy, and I went for lunch in Auch last week. Auch is our department/state/province’s biggest city and is the birthplace of d’Artagnan, the 4th of the 3 musketeers. I don’t get it either. I thought that there were only 3 but it seems I was wrong. Maybe he was like a reserve one or something, incase one of the others got hurt and couldn’t do whatever it was they did. Hey, it’s been a while since I read the story.

Statue of the 4th musketeer

There are some 234 steps leading up to the (very impressive) Gothic Cathedral Ste-Marie in Auch and I always (huff and puff and) take these as a way of earning my lunch. That this burns about 100 calories and I eat about a 1000 is merely a mathematical error and of no concern to me. There are normally 4 of us (are you getting the whole musketeer thing here?!), but our gang is a little decimated at the moment. Sally and I persevere though – when there’s food and shopping there’s no holding us back!

Auch tourist office

There is a half timbered 15th century building that houses the tourist office, some medieval steps and small pedestrian only alleys which give the otherwise fairly charmless city a lovely feel. Lots of shops and places to eat keep us coming back! I ran d’Artagnan through wikipedia and it seems that he befriended The Three Musketeers in the Alexandre Dumas story (of the same name) and then proceeded to go on adventures with them. Mystery solved so let’s get on to lunch.

Our usual girls’ day out routine is never deviated from. First we meet for Café Crème or Chocolat Chaud (hot chocolate) and use the bathrooms (what can I say, we’re girls!). Also, 2 of us are punctual and 2 of us aren’t, so it’s fun to sit and watch the world go by as one waits. Then we shop for an hour, we eat for 2 hours and we shop for a couple more hours. What a perfect way to spend the day.

We normally have the lunchtime menu at one of the many restaurants near the Cathedral, but this time I insisted on going to a Moroccan restaurant that Sally had eaten at so that I could write about it for this blog. I now think of nothing else these days! My friends tire of having their photographs taken (and then deleting them from my camera….). Unfortunately, I forgot to disconnect said camera from the computer so no photos available of the (very good) food. Sorry, I’ll get it together yet!

We both thoroughly enjoyed our meal and the cute doggy that came running through at the end of our meal warmed our hearts too. Considering that a 3 course meal in the other restaurants generally runs at about the same price, I did find it a little pricey at Euro12.50 for a plate. But my Kefta (lamb meatballs) Tagine and Sally’s vegetarian one can both be recommended. We shared a small plate of Moroccan sweet pastries for dessert which were once again very good, but very pricey at Euro5.50 for the 5 small pastries.
So I made a Moroccan meal with friends on Sunday, just so that I would have recipes with photos for you! We all thoroughly enjoyed it, so THANK YOU! (The very fun) Jo and Michel, and Helen & Scott were here for lunch – keep reading this blog and you WILL hear more about and from them later on in the year.

Jo Michel lunch

I started the meal off with a Crab & Saffron Tart – this is not officially a Moroccan recipe, but I thought that with the saffron in it was in keeping with the theme. Then I made a Lamb Tagine with couscous and Marinated Roasted Carrots which I followed with a Dried Fruit Cake. Here are some of the recipes for you to try - hopefully you’ll enjoy them as much as we did.

Lamb tagine

(Serves 6-8)
800g – 1kg (1 ½ - 2 pounds) lamb, cubed
5ml (1 tsp) of each of the following spices:
Ground cinnamon
Ground ginger
Black pepper
Chilli powder or Harissa paste, to taste (Optional)

30ml (2 Tbsp) vegetable oil
3 onions, roughly chopped
1-3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1x400g (14oz) tin of tomatoes
1x 800g (28oz) tin of chickpeas
60ml (1/4 cup) raisins or sultanas
250ml (1 cup) dried apricots or peaches
Fresh cilantro/coriander, chopped, to serve

1. Heat the oven to 180C/375F. Mix all the spices and sprinkle over the lamb. Toss well to coat. Heat the oil and brown the meat in batches, then add the onions and garlic and brown them as well. Add the remaining ingredients, except the cilantro, and bring to a boil.

2. Transfer to a Tagine or other ovenproof dish, cover and bake in the oven for about 2 hours, or until the meat is very tender. Serve with the chopped cilantro and couscous.

(Serves 6-8)
500ml (2 cups) chicken stock
5ml cinnamon
5ml Ras-el-hanout Moroccan spice (optional)
500ml (2 cups) couscous
30ml butter

1. Bring the stock and spices to a simmer, add the couscous and simmer covered for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and leave for 5 minutes. Add the butter and fluff with a fork.

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