Lamb and apricot casserole aka lamb tagine

Monday, September 22, 2008
The good thing about being asked to make the same dish again and again is that you can perfect it, and make it better and better each time you do it. Lamb and apricot casserole is something I’ve been making for 12 years and 3 months. Not that I’m counting. And on and off of course. It started as the best seller at Goblets Wine Bar, the Lygon Arms brasserie where I started my career. Back then we used diced leg of lamb for convenience more than anything.

Years later it is now a best seller on my bistro menu, and like many recipes I‘ve made a few modifications.

Lamb neck rings and chops, sealed before filling up with stock

I use a combination of lamb neck rings and chops (I find that when using leg it can taste quite dry so use neck instead) from Home Farm in Bredons Norton where they butcher their own meat on the farm. It is seared like the beef for the beef pie, then cooked with onions for 3 - 4 hours in red wine, tomatoes, onion and rosemary which often comes from my garden (when supplies aren’t exhausted as it’s only a young plant).

After that you drain the sauce and thicken it while leaving the lamb to cool while it's cool enough to handle whereupon you can take the meat away from the bone, sinew and fat. The advantage of cooking it on the bone is that the bones impart all their flavour to the meat, and the sauce while cooking, and on the whole, just like cooking duck or chicken on the bone, it is just much more succulent.

If you chill the meat it makes it easy to cut into bite-size morsels - like above, and keeps a better shape. The sauce can be modified to taste - seasoning, a splash of balsamic maybe, tomato paste, garlic, red wine (when you add red wine at the end you retain it's fresh taste) and then thickened with cornflour (if you thicken it this way at the end, rather than with flour at the begining you don't have the 3 - 4 hour cooked-hard-to-the-bottom-of-the-tray effect - much easier to clean!).
If you are eating straight away drop the lamb, onions, chopped rosemary and chopped apricots back in to re-heat, or if not leave to cool and re-heat the next day (always tastes better heated up).

Lamb tagine for a buffet at Hill House 18 March 2012
Roast and grilled vegetables for lamb tagine above
Watermelon boats with strawberries, pineapple, passionfruit, mango, blueberries and coconut - going for  the healthy option after the lamb tagine above, 18 March 2012

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Anonymous said...

Holy cow, I mean lamb, this looks good! I've never encountered nor thought of a lamb-apricot combination before, but it sounds so right.

Anonymous said...

I like the whole sound of that dish and with winter coming up I'd like to tuck into that on a chilly night. Grateful for the tip on how not to get gundge at the bottom of the pan :)

Rosemary is a sturdy gal! she'll come stronger next year. Her and Thyme are my fave herbs. Rache