‘Read the recipe twice’ is an often-repeated bit of wisdom that gets passed around in cook books and magazines and I’ve been known to say it myself to people. And it’s good advice; you should read the recipe twice to make sure you actually have the some semblance of the ingredients and know what you’ll be doing. But like all good advice, I don’t actually follow it all the time and sometimes the outcome is better than expected. This Lamb and Apricot stew started as a recipe from a book what the finished product is not so much like the written recipe except that it still has lamb and similar spices.
What this recipe does not have is apricots – although I knew that going in. I like the combination of rich stews with dried fruit and when the recipe didn’t have any I took it up on myself to add them. No, the more important missing ingredient was turnips. I read the recipe as including turnips which I was pretty excited about and so I went shopping and got a lovely bag full of the white and purple tubers. But when I went to review the recipe – no turnips. Just turmeric, which is not really the same at all.
This is not the part of the story where I say forget what everyone says about reading the recipe. You still need that part to avoid that moment when the pots are boiling over and you realize you need to fold in whipped cream that you haven’t whipped or that you never put the milk in the cake – true stories, both of them. But reading and understand the recipe isn’t the same as following it to the letter. That part is optional.
And I don’t have to tell you the turnips were a great choice in this stew (peppery and almost like horseradish) since this whole lesson would be a waste of time if not reading the recipe ruined it. But if you are a turnip hater you can substitute your favorite root vegetable here instead. Although I’d recommend you take at least one more shot before you give up on them entirely.
Lamb and Apricot Stew
Adapted from Marcus Samuelsson’s Lamb Curry in “The Soul of a New Cuisine”
Makes plenty for 6 and probably enough for 8
4 tbs butter
2 onions, diced into 1 inch pieces
6 cloves of garlic, smashed flat
3-4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into ½ inch coins
3-4 tsp kosher salt
2 bird’s eye chiles (or sub 1/4tsp cayenne)
2 tsp smoked paprika (plain is fine too)
1 tsp ground coriander (or 2 tsp whole)
1 tsp cardamom (or 4 whole pots)
2 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick (or 1 tsp cinnamon)
1 tsp turmeric
1 tbs whole peppercorn
1 lb lamb
½ cup tomato sauce*
1 cup coconut milk
2 lbs turnips
½ – ¾ cup dried apricots
First, if you’re using whole cardamom or coriander, now is the time to crush it in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle. The cinnamon, bay leaves, and peppercorns can stay whole, just fish them out at the end.
In a large pot over medium heat melt the butter. Add the onions, carrots, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt and cook for 5-8 minutes or until softened. Add the garlic, chiles, and spices and cook for another minute or two until it’s very fragrant.
Add the lamb, tomato sauce, coconut milk, and 2 teaspoons kosher salt and turn the heat up slightly to medium-high. Bring the stew to a boil then reduce the heat to low and simmer it for about an hour.
After an hour add the turnips and simmer for another 40 minutes to an hour or until the turnips are soft and the lamb is tender, then add the apricots and simmer for another 10 minutes or so just until the apricot are soft but not falling apart.. Taste and add the other teaspoon of salt if needed. Serve it hot but you can easily save leftovers for up to a week and reheat when you need them.
* You can adapt this for a slow cooker by reducing the liquid in it. So sub in 3 tbs tomato paste for the sauce and only use ½ cup of coconut milk. Combine everything in the slow cooker (no need to brown the onions) and cook on low for 6-8 hours.