Happy New Year!! Let me first wish you a happy, healthy and altogether easier and more enjoyable year than the one we’ve just left.
Despite the many challenges of 2020, there were positives and indeed lovely parts of it for me. Especially the birth of my fourth grandson (my son’s third child) on 27 December. As I did when my son’s other two boys were born, with both my ‘Mum’ and my ‘Food writer’ hats on, I’ve felt one way to help is to provide food to the new family, who live close to me. At this time of year one needs something both easily transportable and also warm and comforting. It has to be food that will tolerate being kept warm and reheated without spoiling. For week-old babies tend not to adhere to strict timetables!
It had been a while since I’d cooked Skye Gyngell’s ‘Lamb with Prunes, Chilli, Coriander and Spice Mix’ from her 2007 book, A Year in My Kitchen.
It’s been a favourite book in all that time and the lamb recipe a family favourite that I’ve cooked so many times I was sure I must have already put it on the blog. But it seems from my search that I’ve only mentioned it, not actually provided a recipe. So here it is!
I love it for the layers of flavours, the warm, earthy spices. I love it for the way if reminds me of staying in Marrakesh and eating glorious tagines; of wandering through the souks and spying stalls piled high and so neatly with spices.
I was last in Marrakesh in 2007 with my friend Tina. After a cookery course we did one day, we went to a recommended spice stall to buy Ras el Hanout mixed to order in front of us, and packed to bring home.
I’ve always longed to go back but haven’t made it yet. Meanwhile, I enjoy the taste of Morocco by cooking different kinds of tagines quite often. Although Skye Gyngell doesn’t call this recipe a ‘tagine’, essentially it is. The following is pretty faithful to the original recipe with some slight changes. I put in slightly less of some of the flavourings like tamari and maple syrup and tasted before adding more. I also put in less stock as it looked as if there was plenty of liquid but as her recipe says ‘1 boned medium leg of lamb’, the exact amount is uncertain. I have indeed boned a leg of lamb to cook this before but today I ‘cheated’ and bought ready prepared diced lamb from Whole Foods.
Lamb with Prunes & Moroccan Spices – Serves 6-8
- about 750g diced lamb (from a leg of lamb)
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- olive oil
- 2-3 red onions, finely sliced
- 50g bunch of fresh coriander, stems chopped (leaves saved for garnish at the end)
- 2-3cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
- 2-3 garlic cloves. peeled and grated
- 1 red chilli, deseeded and chopped finely
- 2 tablespoon Ras el Hanout
- 900ml (see recipe) light chicken stock
- 2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 60ml (4 tablespoons) tamari
- 60ml (4 tablespoons) maple syrup
- 200g soft prunes
- juice of 1 lime
First of all, season the diced lamb generously with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Heat about 1-2 tablespoons olive oil in a large saucepan and brown the meat in two or three batches. It’s important to take the time to do a few at a time so they brown properly and don’t ‘steam’ in a pile of meat if you add it all at one time. When nicely browned, transfer the meat to a plate.
Add the sliced red onion to the pan, with a little more oil if necessary. Cook over a medium heat for about 5 minutes or until softening but not colouring. Then add the coriander stems, ginger, garlic and chilli.
Stir and cook briefly to bring out the spice flavours. Then add the stock, tomatoes, bay leaves and cinnamon sticks and bring to the boil.
Put the meat into the pan, stir well, turn down to a low heat and cover with a lid. Simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Now add the tamari, maple syrup, prunes and lime juice. Cook gently for another 30 minutes. I left the lid off for most of that time as I had a lot of liquid and wanted it to reduce, but depending on how yours looks, cover with a lid or not.
Check the seasoning. Add a little more tamari for saltiness, maple syrup for sweetness or lime juice to balance all the flavours. Remember always with this kind of dish it’s as much about personal taste as sticking strictly to a recipe – make it how you like it!
Skye recommends serving it was a sweet potato purée, which is how I often serve it, and did tonight. However, couscous is good too. Just a simple green salad on the side, with some nice peppery rocket leaves, is a perfect accompaniment and remember to garnish with some of those saved coriander leaves, chopped roughly.
It’s such a gorgeous dish, full of wonderful earthy flavours. And it was just perfect for a wintry night.