Lamb and prunes (Persian Style)

This is a classic combination of lamb and prunes, found across many cultures and cooking styles. This particular recipe is from the north west of Iran, near the border with Turkey. It is totally delicious and relatively easy. I found the recipe in the magnificent book ‘Nightingales and Roses’ by Maryam Sinaiee. Of course, we don’t have 100% of the ingredients in South Uist, but she makes suggestions that helped me to adapt to local circumstances. 

INGREDIENTS: 

  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 400g lamb neck fillets or lean tender lamb (I used boned lamb chops)
  • 1 heaped teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp madras curry powder
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 8 dried apricots, chopped in half
  • 2 medium potatoes, cubed
  • 3 tsp salt 
  • 100g yellow split peas
  • 8 prunes
  • Oil to fry the potatoes. 

METHOD:

  • Heat 2 tbsp cooking oil in a heavy pan, and fry the onions over a medium heat until they are browning. 
  • Add the meat, turmeric and curry powder, and continue to stir and cook until the meat is browned. 
  • Add the tomato paste, cook for another couple of minutes, and then cover the meat in boiling water. Bring to the boil and simmer for an hour and a half, until the meat is tender. 
  • Meanwhile, soak the apricots in water for at least 30 minutes
  • Meanwhile, cook the yellow peas – put them in a small saucepan and cover with water, and simmer over a low heat. The peas should be soft but still firm. Drain and rinse with cold water. 
  • Meanwhile, peel and dice the potatoes, and put them in cold water with the salt. 
  • When the meat is nearly tender, drain the apricots and add to the stew along with the prunes and split peas. Add a little water if needed to make sure all the ingredients are covered. Bring back to the boil and continue to simmer until the peas are soft. 
  • About 30 minutes before serving, check for seasoning. Drain the potatoes, and fry them in hot oil for about 10 to 15 minutes until golden and crispy. 

Serve the stew with the fried potatoes on top. This goes well with plain rice. 

Beef stew with chocolate and prunes

This is madly delicious. The original recipe is in Honey from a Weed by Patience Grey.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 kg beef, cut to about the size and shape of a large thumb
  • 1 onion, halved and finely sliced
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 can of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 glass of spanish brandy
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 50g dark chocolate
  • a pinch of cinnamon
  • 1 bunch of herbs, include thyme, bay, parsley
  • 200ml white wine or noilly prat
  • 300ml water
  • 12 fine prunes
  • olive oil
  • 2 potatoes per person, peeled and cubed.

METHOD:

  • Soak the prunes for an hour.
  • Meanwhile, heat some olive oil in a pan, and brown the meat. When it is browned, put it in a casserole dish.
  • Fry the sliced onion in the olive oil, with the unpeeled garlic cloves, until the onions are soft and beginning to brown.
  • Add the tomatoes to the frying pan, with the brandy, and wine. Simmer for around 20 minutes
  • Add the paprika, bitter chocolate, and the cinnamon, and the herbs.
  • Stir in the water, and cook for a few minutes, before pouring this over the meat in the casserole dish.
  • Simmer in a moderate oven, around 140C, for 2 hours.
  • Cook the prunes for 1/2 an hour in a very little water, and drain them.
  • Fry the cubes of potato in hot oil until they are golden.
  • Serve the stew on a platter, with the fried potatoes at one end, and the stewed prunes the other.

Pork with prunes in wine.

This was amazing; the first time I cooked it, I was still telling people about it for days afterwards. I got the recipe from Frances Bissell’s book, the Organic Meat cookbook. I used a random bit of Ken Wilson’s pork, and some white wine from the fridge. The book specifies a cut that I didn’t have, and some wine that I didn’t have. It was still amazingly delicious. Serves 2.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 tenderloin of pork approx 250g, sliced 1 inch thick
  • 8 large prunes
  • 150ml Vouvray or other white wine
  • 1oz butter
  • 2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp redcurrant jelly
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 4 tbsp double cream
  • Salt and pepper

METHOD:

  • Soak the prunes in the wine for at least 6 hours
  • Melt the butter and cook the shallots very slowly until soft
  • Turn up the heat, and add the meat, browning on both sides
  • Add the wine and prunes, and bring to a simmer: cook until the pork is tender
  • Stir in the redcurrant jelly, lemon zest, cream, salt and pepper. Bring to simmering point, and stir to amalgamate the cream with the sauce.

I served this with new potatoes and braised spring cabbage. Delicious.