Delicious braises provide heart-warming rewards for very little fuss.

Braising is an evocative word which fills the mind with images of succulent meat cooking gently in an oven while the house slowly fills with delicious aromas. It is a simple form of cooking; once the food is put in the oven it is left to its own devices for a few hours. The reward nourishing, heartwarming fare.

Braising uses the same cooking technique as a stew or casserole, though it is traditionally done in the oven. You need a pan or casserole dish, ideally with a heavy base and a tight fitting lid to ensure the cooking process can proceed gently with all the heat and flavours trapped inside.

I have opted for a tagine for one of the dishes today (after borrowing from friends I finally have one of my own and as it gorgeous). Tagines adhere to the same principle of gentle cooking to bring out as much flavour as possible while rendering meat meltingly tender. And they look so impressive when brought straight to the table along with a large bowl of fluffy lemon couscous.

Duck with dried cherries; pork with smoky paprika and chicken with apricot are the basis of today's recipes but you can substitute with other cuts. A decent amount of fat on the meat ensures it adds plenty of flavour when slow cooked, so you could also use beef, lamb or goat. Rabbit, though lean does, respond well to braising as long as you include plenty of flavours and olive oil.


Chef's tip

Serve warm crusty bread with these dishes; it can be roughly torn and used to soak up all the delicious juices and wipe the plate clean.

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