Lamb with Apricots
250 g/8 oz whole dried apricots with seeds
or 185 g/6 oz dried apricot halves
1 kg/2 lb lean lamb
10 large dried red chilies
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 tablespoon ground cumin
3 tablespoons ghee or oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
500 g/1 lb ripe tomatoes
2 teaspoons salt or to taste
1 tablespoon jaggery or brown sugar
2 tablespoons malt vinegar
3 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander
125 g/4 oz potato straws
If apricots are very dry, pour hot water over and soak for 1 hour. Cut lamb into cubes, trimming away excess fat. Break off stems of chillies and shake out seeds, then soak the chillies in hot water to cover for 10 minutes. In an electric blender grind chillies with ginger, garlic and cumin, using a little of the soaking water to facilitate blending to a purée. Pour half the purée over the cubed lamb, mix well and leave to marinate for 1 hour.
In a heavy pot heat the ghee or oil (or mixture of both) and fry onion on low heat until soft and golden brown. This takes some time. Be patient and stir occasionally so onion caramelises and develops good flavour.
Add remaining half of the spice purée and the dry ground spices and fry on low heat, stirring, until fragrant. Add marinated lamb and fry until browned, then add tomatoes and salt, and if you are able to get the whole dried apricots which need long cooking, add them now. Cover and cook on low heat for about 1 hour, until meat is almost tender, adding a little water if necessary. Add the jaggery, vinegar and soft dried apricot halves if used and simmer on very low heat for 15 minutes. Garnish with chopped coriander and sprinkle potato straws over just before serving with a lightly spiced pilau.
Recipe excerpted from Encyclopedia of Asian Food by Charmaine Solomon (Periplus Editions, 1998)