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Lamb, butternut squash and chick pea tagine

I’ve just dropped my son, Arthur, off at his new school, he’s started reception today. He’s not long been 4. It’s gone so quick, his baby and toddlerhood! And my daughter, Beatrix, who is only just 2, has been dropped at the local preschool, where she will go every day, but only until noon.

Son was fine, couldn’t get in there quick enough (see, he’s been attending the village preschool for over 6 months prior to starting, so he’s already best mates with 8 of the 10 kids who are going into reception, and he knows lots of the other kids in the school from the village – there’s only 45 in the whole school!).

But my daughter got really upset when I left her. I knew she would. Aside from me and occasional helping out from my in laws, my mum has been looking after her 2 days’ per week until now. So she’s never really experienced life outside the family, on her own…

It’s very weird walking away from your screaming child, whilst another adult pacifies and cuddles her. You are fighting your instincts to go to her. It’s the same knot in your chest that you get if you’ve even tried to cry your child out.

But you know you must leave her. She needs to make her own way in the world, as does my son. It’s time for her to make friends and experience life outside of our family. I remember the first time I left Artie though, at about the same age, if not younger actually. First a trial period in a nursery (took him out and left my job after a couple of months). Then when he was 2 1/2 I started him in a little playgroup/preschool, a couple of sessions to start with. I wept as I walked away. But this morning I didn’t.

It’s not that I love her any less, I just know that she’ll be fine. And I’ve seen how Arthur, my very shy little boy, has come out of his shell to be a confident and popular kid who others want to play with. There is no other way of them learning how to be with other children than to be with other children, without you there, making their own way…

So, back to the recipe… (thanks for allowing me that little emotional outpouring!!)

This recipe is my third for Instant Pot, who gave me one of their brilliant electronic pressure cookers a while back. It’s something I make quite a bit, a lamb tagine. But it’s the first time in the pressure cooker. And this time I included some squash to make it even more wholesome. The meat was falling apart and the stew had a great depth of flavour too. Unbelievable in only 30 mins. If you don’t have a pressure cooker, you can get the same effect, but it’ll take about 2 hours in a casserole dish. Do you see why I love my Instant Pot?!

I always, always, always garnish my tagine with freh coriander, but there was none available in the village. This happens sometimes when you live in the country. So please forgive the omission of a fresh herb garnish, but do fling a little on top of yours to serve… oh, and a splodge of Greek yoghurt with some extra virgin on top too.

Serves: 4 adults (or equivalent)
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Total time: 35 minutes

500g lamb shoulder, cut into chunks
1 small butternut squash, peeled and diced into roughly 2/3cm chunks
1 tin of chick peas, drained
1 tin of tomatoes plus half the tin filled with boiling water
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon runny honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon of ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon of olive oil

Instructions for Instant Pot:

  1. Switch on to Saute. Add oil and then onions and garlic to soften for a few minutes. 
  2. Now add meat to brown for a couple more minutes. 
  3. Tip in spices and let these coat the meat. 
  4. The tinned toms go in now, and the boiling water too (omit the water if you want a less saucy stew).
  5. Stir in the honey and then Cancel the Saute setting. Put on the lid. Press Manual which will pressure cook for 30 mins.
  6. Serve with cous cous and yoghurt on top – and ideally some fresh coriander too!

Instructions for normal casserole:

  1. Soften the onions and garlic in a little oil. 
  2. Add the meat and brown. 
  3. Now the spices too. 
  4. Add the liquid (toms, water, honey) and bring to boil. Let simmer for about 2 hours with a lid on. Take off the lid for the last 20 minutes to thicken a little. 
  5. Serve with cous cous and yoghurt on top – and ideally some fresh coriander too!


  1. September 8, 2014 / 10:38 pm

    Sounds delicious! I might give this a go in the slow cooker. I can totally relate to your emotions this week. My littlest started nursery (like pre-school, we're in Scotland) just last week. It's so hard to see them upset and not wanting to leave you… N was fine the first few days but we had tears today. The ole 'cruel to be kind' rings true.

    Here's to no more tears! x

  2. September 9, 2014 / 6:59 pm

    Hi! Ahh, I hope your little one is OK! Mine also wept again on parting today but they say she is fine after a minute or two. She's so happy when I pick her up though! Yes you could do this in the slow cooker, just seal everything off first in pan, add liquid / spices etc then transfer once it's all been brought to the boil. XX

  3. doda
    October 5, 2018 / 1:12 pm

    This recipe actually leaves out the squash in both cooking variations.

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