About this recipe:Based on the Moroccan way of stewing meat with fruit, here lamb is marinated with mushrooms and aromatics, then cooked slowly with dried apricots. Shredded cabbage and fresh mint enliven the couscous accompaniment.
450 g (1 lb) lean boneless lamb, cut into chunks
340 g (12 oz) mushrooms, sliced
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 carrots, sliced
2 celery sticks, sliced
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
500 ml (17 fl oz) strong brown ale
1 can chopped tomatoes, about 400 g
150 ml (5 fl oz) lamb or chicken stock, preferably home-made
150 g (5½ oz) ready-to-eat dried apricots, halved
salt and pepper
2 tbsp chopped parsley to garnish
Minted couscous with cabbage
750 ml (1¼ pints) boiling vegetable stock, preferably home-made light
450 g (1 lb) green cabbage, such as Savoy, finely shredded
340 g (12 oz) couscous
4 tbsp chopped fresh mint
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Place the lamb in a bowl with the mushrooms and onion. Tie the bay leaves and thyme together into a bouquet garni and add to the bowl with the garlic, carrots, celery and nutmeg. Pour on the ale and stir to mix, then cover and leave to marinate in the refrigerator for 12 hours.
Preheat the oven to 160ºC (325ºF, gas mark 3). Transfer the lamb, mushrooms and flavouring ingredients to a large casserole and pour the marinade over. Add the tomatoes with their juice and the stock. Cover and cook in the oven for 2 hours.
Discard the bouquet garni from the casserole. Stir in the apricots and return the casserole to the oven to cook for a further 30 minutes.
Just before the casserole is ready, prepare the couscous. Bring the stock to the boil in a large saucepan. Add the cabbage and bring back to the boil, then remove from the heat and immediately add the couscous and mint. Stir once, then cover the pan and leave, off the heat, for about 5 minutes or until the couscous has absorbed all the stock. Use a fork to fluff up the couscous.
Divide the couscous among 4 bowls and ladle the lamb casserole over the top. Scatter on the chopped parsley and serve at once.
Some more ideas
Other dried fruits can be used instead of apricots. Dried peaches work well, as do cherries and pears. * For a lower fat casserole, use joints of hare or rabbit or whole oven-ready pigeons instead of lamb. Venison is another good choice: use 450 g (1 lb) cubed stewing venison.
Surprisingly, dried apricots are a useful source of calcium. They are also an excellent source of beta-carotene and provide useful dietary fibre. * Combining cabbage and mint with couscous brings flavour and beneficial nutrients along with the satisfying starchy carbohydrate.