Sunday, 7 April 2013

Persian Inspired Braised Lamb with Apricots & Dried Lime

A few posts ago I mentioned that I had bought some dried limes (among other things) in an online food shop. I can’t remember exactly what had prompted me to do so at the time, but I do recall seeing a Nigel Slater recipe for braised neck of lamb (we had some in the freezer from the never-ending half-lamb) from which I think I took inspiration for this: essentially replacing Nigel’s thickly pared zest with the perfume-rich limes. 

I’m not even sure that this is really all that Persian: so apologies if not. The limes however most definitely are: strongly flavoured, sour and citrussy like a lime but with a smoky kind of fermented musk that is quite unique.

Persian dried limes (limu-omani) are brown, the size of a golfball more or less and very lightweight. When using whole ones, such as in this recipe, you want to pierce them with a fork or skewer all the way through so that the sauce while cooking takes up the pungent flavour. This can be easier said than done, so do be careful!

Persian Style Braised Lamb with Dried Limes
Serves 2 generously

500g lamb neck fillets, cut into 1.5” chunks
1½ tbsp plain flour seasoned with sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium red onion, chopped
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp dried chilli flakes
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3cm lump of fresh ginger, shredded
2 dried Persian limes, pierced
1 cinnamon stick
250g dried apricots, roughly chopped
750ml stock
2 tbsp chopped mint
1 tsp lemon zest

Preheat the oven to 160C.

Dust the lamb with the seasoned flour and over a medium heat warm the olive oil in a large, heavy-based casserole.

Add the lamb pieces in batches (so as not to crowd the pan) and brown lightly all over. Set aside.

Lower the heat a little and add the onions to the pan. Cook gently for at least 10 minutes until softened.

Stir in the cumin, ground coriander, dried chilli, garlic, ginger, dried limes, cinnamon stick and apricots. Give a good stir to mix well and allow to cook for a couple of minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the stock and return the lamb to the pan.

Bring to the boil and give a final stir before covering and popping in the oven.

Cook for 90 minutes, until the lamb is very tender.

Discard the cinnamon stick and dried limes and serve with steamed couscous - scatter over the fresh mint and lemon zest.

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