I don’t buy cookbooks very often; not only do I have more than enough to keep me amused already, not to mention a wealth of recipes and food ideas on t’internet, but my bookshelf is already overflowing with heaps of books littering the floor around it, and I don’t need any more adding to the mess. However I literally could not resist Silvena Rowe’s exquisite new book, Purple Citrus and Sweet Perfume, when I picked it up in a bookshop the other day (note to self, don’t pick up any books you don’t already own). The photography is beyond stunning, with shots of the Middle East, and the food focuses on the Eastern Mediterranean, Syria and Turkey, a cuisine which intrigues and annoys me in equal measure; since most of the desserts are wheat-based, it isn’t a food I can readily, or at least fully, experience in a restaurant so being able to make it at home, and adapt it to be gluten-free is great. I succumbed quickly, and when I got my treasure home I spent a good hour just flicking through the book, finding that every single recipe I landed on I wanted to make immediately, an unusual occurrence. I didn’t even bother to bookmark my favourite pages, since I know that I will, eventually, make all the recipes in the book.
After much deliberation I settled on this slow-cooked, but light Spring stew as my first recipe from the book. For some unknown reason all my local shops had sold out of dried cherries, and had only sweetened glacé ones. I was at a bit of a loss for what to substitute until I remembered that my Mother used to make lamb with prunes. I added some soft, dried prunes right at the end of cooking and they complemented the dish perfectly. They were sweet and fruity, and nicely chewy against the buttery softness of the lamb. The lemon cut through the richness of the meat and the parsley made it feel fresh and vibrant. Perfect for a Spring day, or a day when you want it to be Spring.
Lamb and prune yiahni
Adapted slightly from Purple Citrus and Sweet Perfume
One day, in the dim but glorious future, I shall actually make a recipe as written. I will use all the ingredients listed, weighing them exactly on my accurate digital scale, and follow each instruction to the letter. And I did so want that day to be today, honest. Only I didn’t have any lamb stock and thought that chicken stock would more than suffice. And try as I might I just couldn’t find any dried cherries that weren’t sweetened. Given the outcome though I wasn’t too upset, and can only conclude that when I follow all subsequent recipes from this cookbook to the letter the results will be astounding.
400g lamb shoulder, diced
12 spring onions, green and white bits finely chopped
Zest and juice of half a large bergamot (a lemon will suffice just fine)
150ml chicken stock
10 soft dried prunes, finely chopped
2 large handfuls parsley, chopped
1. Brown the lamb in a little oil in a large casserole dish for about 5 minutes, until browned on all sides. Add the spring onions and cook for a further 3 minutes, until they are wilted.
2. Add the bergamot zest and juice and the stock (it really is a small amount of stock, don’t go overboard with it). Season lightly with salt and cover the pan and cook on a low heat for 1 1/2 hours.
3. After 1 1/2 hours remove the lid, stir in the chopped prunes and parsley, stir so they are well mixed in and taste. Add a little more salt if necessary and then serve immediately.
Serve topped with more parsley, over brown rice or, as Rowe recommends, a pilaf. Serves 2.