Although I'm the homeliest of home cooks, every now and then I get an urge to recreate something that I've eaten in a restaurant and today is one of those occasions. This dish probably started out long ago as a traditional Parsi dish but by the time that I came across it in a south London restaurant it had been adapted to British tastes and to restaurant cooking. Sadly, I didn't get the recipe at the time and the restaurant is long gone now. In my attempts to recreate the dish I've used some decidedly inauthentic ingredients. But who cares? It works.
The dried fruit brings a lovely sweetness to the dish while the spices add both depth of flavour and fragrance. There are a lot of ingredients listed, but it’s actually pretty easy to put together. If you can, allow yourself enough time for the overnight marinade – it really does make a difference.
The dish is fine on its own but it would also sit well alongside a vegetable curry or you could serve it with rice if you happen to be really hungry. A simple chutney would also be good – lemon chutney would be ideal. It should serve two fairly generously.
275 g trimmed lamb neck fillet, cut into chunks of about 3 cm
1 onion, finely chopped
3 cm (or thereabouts) fresh ginger, peeled and very finely chopped
1 tbsp tomato purée
8 dried apricots, cut in half
1 tbsp raisins
Seeds of 3 green cardamom pods, crushed
¼ tsp fennel seeds, crushed
2 tbsp ground almonds
Steamed or boiled new potatoes
A dash of lemon juice
Coriander leaves, roughly chopped
For the marinade:
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp cumin, ground
1 tsp coriander seeds, ground
Seeds of 1 black cardamom pod, crushed
½ tsp black pepper
1 large clove garlic, crushed
30 ml balsamic vinegar (a cheap but not nasty one is fine)
30 ml red wine
1 tbsp palm sugar (use brown sugar if you don’t have palm)
Mix together all the marinade ingredients in a non-reactive bowl, add the lamb, cover and leave in the fridge overnight (or for a few hours, if you’re in a hurry).
The next day, sweat the onion in a little oil over a low heat for at least 10 minutes. Add the ginger and continue cooking for another 5 minutes. Add the lamb and the marinade and stir in the tomato purée. Pour in water until the lamb is almost covered, bring to a simmer, cover the pan and let it cook very gently for an hour. Stir now and then and top up the water if it starts to dry out.
After an hour, add the apricots and raisins. Stir in the cardamom and fennel seeds and the ground almonds. Season with a little salt. Cover the pan loosely and continue cooking for another half an hour. The sauce should be quite thick – if it seems too thin, then remove the lid during this last half hour but, on the other hand, add a little water if it seems too dry. Stir in as many cooked new potatoes as you fancy for the final 15 minutes or so.
Once the cooking is complete, stir in a dash of lemon juice to freshen the taste, add a little more salt if it needs it and sprinkle with the coriander leaves just before serving.