Every Christmas, we spend a lot of time driving around the UK, visiting family, and one thing this year was inescapable: the children in our lives, our godchildren, our nieces and nephews and the children of cousins, are growing up. Barbies are out. K-pop is in. Not across the board, of course, but at the top end we now have teenagers in the family.
This, naturally, changes things for the annual nativity show. You can persuade and cojole a kid into being a shepherd, but good luck trying that on a tween.
And so, this year, the story was adapted to fit the songs from Frozen, a favorite across the ages. “You will have a baby,” said the angel Gabriel. “You will call him Jesus. Don’t worry about it. In fact … * music swells* (singing) Let it Go! Let it Go! Can’t hold it back any more! Let it Go!!” etc.
We had not one, but two nativity tigers this year – the tiger costume being the absolute favorite. It was a blast, basically, best ticket in town. Who knows if there will be another one.
I’m thinking of it today especially because today is epiphany, the last day of the nativity, the day when the wise men traditionally show up with random gifts, and we have to take the decorations down. I love Christmas decorations. Love them. So to make today less sad, I like to cook a wise-man themed dinner – this year, a sweet lamb tagine, topped, for beauty and deliciousness, with pomegranate seeds and slivered almonds.
Lamb pomegranate tagine (serves 4)4 lamb shanks or 500g lamb shoulder cut into bite sized cubes 1 onion 4 cloves of garlic 1 tsp salt 200ml rosé wine (if you’re cooking 6 shanks, add 350ml wine) 100ml water 2 cinnamon sticks 1 tsp cumin 1 tsp saffron ½ cup pitted dried dates 1 can chick peas A fist full of fresh parsley 1 pomegranate ¼ cup slivered (chopped) almonds Olive oil Salt and pepper
- Preheat the oven to 300f
- Season the lamb well, then brown in a pan that you can put in the oven later – cast iron strikes again – with a splash of olive oil for a few minutes per side Transfer to a plate to free up space in the pan
- Slice the onion and add to the pan, with a splash more olive oil. Heat gently until soft (about 5 mins).
- Once the onion is soft, grate in the garlic, add the saffron, cumin, cinnamon and the wine.
- Put the lamb back in, then bring everything up to a boil to get the stew going
- Put the lid on the pan and put in the oven for 3.5 – 4 hours. Take the lid off for the last half hour of cooking, and add the dates and chickpeas.
- Once the stew is cooked, cut the pomegranate in half and bash the deeds out with a wooden spoon, over the stew – about half a pomegranate should do it. Scatter over the torn parsley and the slivered almonds.