Lamb Pilaf

I was in the mood for something hearty and warming today. I was feeling the onset of a cold, so needed something that was going to make me feel better. I love pilaf that includes meat, as it’s essentially a one pot meal that needs little else to make it a success. The soft, aromatic lamb takes over this delicious dish – a real favourite of mine. As I type this, my cold has taken hold 100% but I know there’s a few of tubs of leftovers in the freezer that will see me for the next couple of days at least. Small mercies.

1kg lamb shoulder or leg (trimmed of fat and cut into large chunks)
2 teaspoons cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon powder
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 stems parsley (whole)
2 cloves garlic (peeled and lightly bruised)

3 tablespoons butter
1 onion (finely chopped)
2 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
1/3 cup dried cherries or apricots (chopped)
1/3 cup lightly toasted pine nuts
2 cups basmati rice
1/4 cup fresh mint (chopped)
1/4 cup fresh parsley (chopped)
salt & pepper to taste

In a large saucepan, add the lamb, cumin, cinnamon, salt, pepper, parsley stalk and garlic. Pour over 2 litres of water. Heat over a moderate heat until just boiling. Reduce the heat to very low and cover the pan. Cook for 1 1/2 hours until the meat is tender. Remove the meat from the pan with a slotted spoon. Keep the cooking liquid over a low heat.

Meanwhile, in another large saucepan, over a moderate heat, melt the butter until bubbling – add the onion and cook for 4-5 minutes until lightly golden and soft. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute until aromatic. Add the cherries or apricots, pine nuts and rice and stir for 1-2 minutes more Return the lamb to the pan and stir in. Add four cups (1 litre) of the lamb cooking liquid and the fresh herbs. Stir once only and let the liquid simmer. Reduce the heat to very low, cover the pan and cook very gently for 12-14 minutes or until all the liquid has evaporated and the rice is just beginning to stick to the bottom the pan. Remove from the heat – remove the lid and place a clean tea towel over the pan. Return the lid and cover tightly. Leave for 20 minutes before serving.

Just before serving, fluff the rice up with forks and season with a little salt & pepper if needed.

You can eat this on its own with a little yoghurt dressing and a simple salad – heaven!

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