Moroccan lamb with apricots

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While this might be as authentically Moroccan as the plywood set of Casablanca, its heart is in the right place: lamb simmered in an aromatic collection of flavours, highly spiced, until it is meltingly tender. The inclusion of ras el hanout, my favourite spice blend, and harissa gives it at least a nod towards North Africa.

As you can tell by the length of the ingredients list, which is unusually long in my repertoire, there are many flavours being brought together here: spicy, sweet, meaty, fruity. All stews benefit from a day's rest before eating, giving everything a chance to mingle and deepen further, and this one especially. My strategy is to make it on the weekend, when I have time to keep an eye on it, and eat it on a Monday or even Tuesday night, when the shock of the working week can be smoothed out by a wonderful dinner. It freezes like a dream, too, so having one in the freezer is always reassuring.

There have been many, many versions of this throughout my cooking life and this happens to be my current concoction. I add and subtract all the time and I hope you will experiment, too.


Moroccan lamb with apricots

 

Serves 2.

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
500g (1 pound) diced lamb shoulder
1 small red onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon ras al hanout
60ml (¼ cup) Marsala, or dry red wine
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon harissa paste
375ml (1½ cups) beef stock
3 tablespoons red lentils
8 dried apricots
flaked almonds, lightly toasted, to serve
fresh parsley, to serve

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat in a broad, heavy bottomed pan. Brown the diced lamb, in batches if necessary to avoid crowding the pan, and remove to plate. Set aside.

Turn the heat down to medium and add the other tablespoon of oil to the pan. Add the onions and garlic, along with a good pinch of salt. Let the onions cook until they are very soft and translucent.

Once the onions have cooked down, add the rest of your flavour base: ras el hanout, Marsala, honey, tomato paste and harissa. Stir everything together.

Return the lamb and any juices which have collected to the pan. Pour over the stock and stir everything together. Bring to a bubbling boil then cover and turn down to the merest simmer. Leave to simmer away like this for at least an hour, until the lamb is very tender.

Uncover and add the lentils and apricots. Turn the heat up to produce a rolling boil and leave for 20 minutes. Check to see that the lentils are soft.

Serve on a bed of couscous, sprinkling with toasted almonds and fresh parsley.