Lamb is a perfect choice of meat for including in a casserole. Its frequently fatty consistency means that the fat renders down during the slow cooking process, adding additional flavor to the meat as well as helping it become beautifully tender to the point where it literally melts in the mouth. Lamb works very well with a number of vegetables and spices but also certain fruits and most particularly apricots, with which it is often combined in Moroccan and other North African dishes. Ginger and cumin are just two of the spices which work well with lamb but in this instance, they have been made to infuse the accompanying rice rather than the casserole proper. The simple but tasty salsa included in the recipe is an optional addition but does add a very definite tasty twist to the served meal as well as looking good on the plate.
Lamb casserole, spicy rice and nectarine salsa are taken to the table in individual serving dishes
Ingredients (Serves 1)
- ½ pound shoulder of lamb meat
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- Salt and pepper
- ½ medium sized white onion
- ½ red bell pepper
- 1 medium size and strength red chili
- 1 large garlic clove
- 8 green beans
- 8 soft apricots*
- 1 teaspoon dried mint
- 1 pint chicken stock (approximately)
- ½ ripe nectarine
- Piece of soft goats' cheese similar in size to nectarine half
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 2 medium basil leaves
- ½ cup basmati rice (or as desired)
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
*These apricots are dried apricots which have been partially re-hydrated and are often eaten as a snack. Dried apricots could be used instead but fresh apricots should be avoided as they will quickly cook down to mush due to their high water content and will adversely affect the quality of the finished dish.
Begin by getting your oven started heating to 350F/180C/Gas Mark 4.
Pour the vegetable oil in to a pot and bring it up to a medium heat. If it hasn't already been done, chop the lamb in to around one inch chunks and add them to the oil. Season with salt and pepper and stir with a wooden spoon over a medium to high heat for a couple of minutes or until all the pieces are sealed and evenly browned.
Slice the peeled onion half across the way and add to the pot with the lamb. Cook as before for a further minute or two until the onion strands are separated and just starting to soften.
Spoon the lamb and onion in to a large casserole dish. Seed and slice the red bell pepper and slice the chili in to discs. The seeds can be removed from the chili at this stage if desired but provided the chili is not too hot, they are needed to give the real spice to the dish. Wash, trim and half the green beans and peel and dice the garlic clove. Add all of these to the cooking dish along with the apricots and the dried mint. Season with a little more salt and black pepper.
Pour enough chicken stock in to the dish to ensure everything is comfortably covered. If necessary and you have no extra stock, simply add a little cold water. Stir well, put the lid of the dish in place and put it in to the oven for three hours.
The salsa should be prepared shortly before the casserole is due to come out of the oven. Moderately finely dice the nectarine half and the goats' cheese and add them to a small bowl.
Roll the basil leaves and finely slice. Add to the bowl with the nectarine and cheese, season with a little pepper (the cheese should provide all the saltiness required) and drizzle with the extra virgin olive oil. Stir well, cover with plastic wrap and set aside until required.
When the casserole comes out of the oven and being careful of escaping steam, remove the lid and give it a gentle stir with a wooden spoon. Replace the lid and allow it to sit in a safe place on a heatproof surface to rest while you prepare the rice.
Add the ginger, cumin and some salt to a pot and pour in plenty of water. Bring the water to a rolling boil. Wash the rice at your sink through a sieve before adding it to the water. Stir well and bring back to a simmer for ten minutes.
When the rice is done, drain it well and allow it to steam off for a few minutes and dry out. Fork it lightly to fluff it up before it is plated.
In the top image of this article, the lamb casserole and the rice are added to separate Indian style serving dishes and taken to the table on the serving plate with the salsa in a small porcelain ramekin. Alternatively, plating up can begin simply with spreading out the rice in the form of a serving bed for the casserole.
A slotted spoon is best used to lift the lamb casserole on to the rice but much of the liquid will have evaporated anyway during the long cooking process.
Sweet and spicy lamb casserole on cumin and ginger rice with nectarine and goats' cheese salsa
Last of all, the nectarine and goats' cheese salsa was divided between the four corners of the plate and the meal was ready to serve.