‘What are you putting with this?’ asks the guy in my local Iranian shop when I put a bag of split yellow peas and dried limes on the counter.
‘Um, it’s going to be a casserole with lamb, tomatoes…’
‘Yeah, but not in it, just on top.’
‘Yes, sliced and fried.’
‘Where are you from?’
‘Where? You remind me of my mother.’
He then practically invites himself round for dinner and throws in a cooking tip for free: ‘Don’t crush the limes, just make two holes in them and put them in whole.’ A top tip, as it turns out.
My cousin got me into slow-cooked dishes spiced with Middle Eastern flavours. A brilliant cook, she visited Damascus and, back at home, recreated the dishes she had tasted there. The best was a green lamb casserole (ghormeh sabzi), made with dried limes and loads of herbs. What I love about this dish is that it combines the dusty, sour pungency of dried limes with richer tomato. Wine-wise, reds – particularly those with a rugged earthiness – from Greece, Lebanon and Turkey often fit the bill: an old-fashioned wine from Portugal, or a dry southern French red are good alternatives.
4 GOOD MATCHES:
Extra Special Dao 2012 Portugal, 13% (£5, Asda)
The Dao is one of Portugal’s best red wine-producing regions.This is savoury, dry and rustic, a blend of touriga nacional, jaén and tinta roriz. Good with this casserole.
Pizarras de Otero Bierzo 2013 Spain, 13.5% (£6.66 from £9.99 when you buy two until 27 April, Majestic)
Made from the mencia grape, this has become a favourite in all Moore households – my parents are addicted. A great food wine, this is savoury, with a gentle spice and floral lift.
Porcupine Ridge Syrah 2013 South Africa, 14.5% (£7.99, Waitrose)
Smoky, with a hint of liquorice and an intense, almost opaque, deep-violet colour, this big, and sturdy Cape syrah is great with spicy lamb.
Massaya Classic 2012 Lebanon, 14.5% (£10.50, The Wine Society)
The Ghosn family left Lebanon in the 1970s, but came back to the estate to make wine again.This is a contemporary red, made from silky cinsault, cabernet sauvignon and syrah.
Slow-cooked Middle Eastern lamb recipe
2 hours, serves 3, easy
This slow-cooked Middle-Eastern lamb dish combines the dusty, sour pungency of dried limes with richer tomato. Slow-cooking is great as it requires minimal hands-on time and effort but you get great, flavourful results. The golden fried aubergine is a delicious accompaniment.
onion 1, peeled and chopped
garlic 2 cloves, peeled and finely chopped
lamb 500g, diced
saffron a pinch, mixed with 2 tbsp warm water
ground cinnamon ¼ tsp
ground cumin ¼ tsp
ground coriander ¼ tsp
turmeric 1 tsp
chopped tomatoes 400g tin
tomato purée 2 tbsp
dried limes 1-2, pierced a couple of times
with a metal skewer or corkscrew
split yellow peas 100g, rinsed in cold water
cooked rice to serve
flat-leaf parsley chopped to serve
Use 2 tbsp of olive oil to fry the onions in a casserole dish on a medium heat. When they are soft, add the garlic, stir and continue to cook until the garlic and onions are pale gold. Remove from the pan using a slotted spoon and set aside.
Put the lamb in the pan, turn up the heat and cook, stirring from time to time, until the meat is brown. Return the onion mixture to the pan, and stir in the saffron, cinnamon, cumin, coriander and turmeric. Cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring.
Add the tomatoes and the purée. Fill the tomato tin with water and add to the pan with the limes. Cover the pan and simmer, for 45 minutes.
Stir in the split yellow peas and continue to simmer, covered, for 45-60 minutes or until the lentils are cooked. If it seems to dry up, add a splash of water. While it’s cooking, slice the aubergine and cut it widthwise into ½cm rounds. Fry these in oil until they are golden and cooked, then put them on a plate layered with kitchen roll to absorb the grease.
When the casserole is cooked and the sauce has thickened, remove the limes and check the seasoning. Serve with rice studded with little chunks of cold butter and topped with the aubergine strips. Scatter with parsley to serve.
PER SERVING 609 kcals, fat 33.3g, saturates 12.4g, carbs 31.5g, fibre 9.7g, protein 40.9g, salt 0.5g
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