Since watching Nigel Slater’s Middle East, my poor brain's been utterly full of the foods cooked during the three episodes of that lovely programme. (Only 3. I WANT MORE!)
To be honest, I think my grey matter has jumbled everything up rather, so the ingredients I bought last weekend became a dish 'inspired by' rather than 'from' that series.
I had a small boned and rolled lamb breast joint in the freezer, so I thought I’d use that. Long slow cooking is what it needs. The recipe for Dizi usually calls for the meat, potatoes and chick peas all to be mashed together, but I’m not really a fan of that kind of texture, plus I needed it to keep well for a while, and I just wasn’t sure that a mashed meat mixture would fare well in the fridge for a few days. It needs to be eaten when it’s warm and luscious, ready to be scooped up with soft flatbread.
So here is my Persian inspired lamb and chick pea stew.
1 small lamb breast joint, unrolled and cut into pieces around 1-2” square
2 large white onions, cut in half and sliced into half moons
2 tbs olive oil
3/4 tsp turmeric
1 can chick peas
1 large baking potato, skin on, quartered
4 dried limes, pierced a few times with a sharp knife or skewer (careful, they are hard)
1 bunch fresh parsley
1 bunch fresh mint
1 large bag of baby spinach leaves
1 tsp sweet red pepper
1 tsp dried mint
2 tbs sugar
1 tsp veal stock powder or a lamb stock cube (to compensate for the lack of lamb bones)
Salt to taste
2 tbs tomato puree (I admit, I forgot this bit!)
Fry the sliced onions in a large stock pot, in roughly 2 tbs olive oil. Let them cook down on a low heat until the onions are soft.
Add in the lamb pieces, and the turmeric. Stir well to coat, and cook for a few minutes.
Cover the onions and meat with water. (At this stage you can let it cook for about an hour, then let it sit overnight, if you want to skim any fat off, or just carry straight on.)
Add in the drained chick peas and the potato, make sure the potato quarters are covered, pop in the limes, and leave to simmer for a good 2 – 3 hours.
When the lamb is tender, remove the limes, and squeeze their juice back in to the pot. The liquid had reduced a bit, so I just added a little water.
Chop all the herbs finely, and add them, along with the spinach, dried mint, stock powder and the sweet red pepper. Mix in the tomato paste if you remember!
Leave to simmer until all the greens have wilted right down and the lamb is tender.
Taste again, and add salt if you think it needs it.
Mine was a little too sour for me – I may have been too enthusiastic in my use of the limes - so I added some sugar and that evened it out perfectly.
This seemed to be even better the next day. A soothing, gold and green pot of comfort. The lime spikes through any fattiness, and the mint wafts up to you as you spoon it hungrily into your mouth. The lamb is tender, but it still retains some chew which, when eaten alongside the softened heft of potatoes makes it a very filling one pot meal. Definitely one I will make again, maybe with lentils next time.