Can you feel it? Well, my northern-hemisphere friends – I certainly can. The weather is a-changing. Those long, bright, warm summer days are drawing in and it’s actually sometimes even – gasp – chilly when I go outside. Yes indeedy – autumn is rolling in, but you know; that’s fine! I like autumn. I love the crisp, cold air; the sight of leaves falling silently from the branches to the ground, and then the crunch of them underfoot; I love watching the trees outside my window get progressively more bare, before only a small handful of stubborn leaves remain – I wonder who will be the “last man standing” on the tree, and then wonder how on earth it can be possible that one solitary leaf can possibly survive, stuck to the tree, until well into winter, braving gales, rain, ice and snow, like some freak of nature super-leaf.
Bring it on I say – it’s a time for change, for hot chocolate, for plenty of things flavoured with cinnamon and ginger – things to warm the soul – which rather conveniently brings me to today’s recipe. I’ll admit that I actually made this some weeks ago, in the peak of the summer heat. Why? Because I’m an idiot, that’s why, and I have no sense of what is appropriate food for the season. I’ll frequently make salads in winter, and stews in the summer. That’s just the way I roll.
My wife had given me a big box of meat from a butcher as an anniversary present earlier in the year – veal, lamb, rabbit and duck. The veal I used for my blanquette, the duck for the aromatic duck recipe, the rabbit for another dish which in the end I decided not to write about, although it was perfectly enjoyable, and has actually made me determined to try and enjoy this wonderful lean, healthy meat a bit more, and finally there remained the lamb.
So many choices, so many opportunities! I decided to go for a Moroccan lamb stew, so after a little poll on my Facebook page I had some wonderful inspiration. The only problem was, I’d had three fantastic-looking recipes suggested to me, and I wanted to try them all, so in the end I decided to take the best aspects from every single one, mix in a few of my own ideas, cook it all up and hope for the best.
The result might not have been that pretty, but seriously… when is a stew pretty? Some people have the exceptionally annoying talent of making stews look absolutely incredible on-camera. I, sadly, am not one of those people, so you’re going to have to take my word for its tastiness.
My wife had rather some misgivings about the stew, but she was very pleased with the result, and actually said it was some of the best lamb she’d ever had. Meat so tender you can push it apart with a fork, a delicately spiced, faintly sweet flavour, the occasional crunch of the nuts, and raisins which had soaked up all the juices during cooking and popped in the mouth with an explosion of sweetness. This was the very epitome of perfect Autumn fare – just too bad we ate it in Summer, eh?
- 800g stewing Lamb, in chunks
- 500ml Water
- 250g cooked green Lentils
- 80g Dates
- 80g Prunes
- 60g dried Apricots
- 60g Raisins
- 50g Almonds
- 40g Butter
- 3 small Onions
- 1 red Pepper
- 1 small bulb of Garlic
- 2tbsps Olive Oil
- 2tsps ground Cinnamon
- 2tsps ground Ginger
- Start off by preheating your oven to 160 degrees Celsius, and then slice the apricots and prunes into strips. Pit the dates and slice these too, and then roughly chop the almonds.
- Finely chop the onions, and separate and peel the cloves of garlic before finely chopping as well. Chop the red pepper into thick strips and then take the lamb and cut the chunks into large bite-sized pieces, if the chunks are especially big.
- In a large pan, heat the olive oil and the butter and then add in the chopped onion and garlic and sauté gently until it softens. Remove from the pan and then in the same pan, lightly fry the lamb chunks until browning slightly all over - about 2 minutes or so in total.
- In a large cast-iron pot with a lid, or a dutch oven, place all the solid ingredients, including the ginger and cinnamon and pour the water over the top before stirring the contents gently. The water should just come to the top of the solid ingredients - you may need a little more or less than the stated amount.
- Cover the dish and place in the oven for one hour, and then remove the lid and cook for another hour or so, until the liquid has reduced down and the stew has thickened.
- Remove from the oven and serve as desired - with bread, rice or potatoes for example.