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Persian Braised Lamb

This recipe is based on one by Neil Perry and provided by Teneille Leslie. I like to use lamb necks in this dish as they simply melt away with this minimum cooking time. Such a warming dish, yet the tang and fragrance of the lime and cinnamon keep it light and the pumpkin adds sweetness and vibrancy. Pistachios are perfect to top it off. Great for a dinner party you want to prepare in advance and spend little time in the kitchen on guests' arrival. I like to prepare it in the morning, keeping the pumpkin and mint separate to stir through as I warm it just before they knock on the door.

Pictured: Persian Braised Lamb

1 kg lamb necks, cut into 5cm dice - can also use shoulder
100ml extra virgin olive oil
2 brown onions, cut into 1cm dice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cumin
4 cardamom pods, split, seeds removed and crushed
2 teaspoons sea salt
500ml chicken stock
250g pitted prunes
1 tsp caster sugar
Juice of 1 - 2 limes
Pinch saffron threads, dissolved in a little boiling water
1 large handful mint, roughly chopped
Roasted almonds or pistachios to garnish
For the pumpkin
500g butternut pumpkin, peeled and cut into 4cm dice
Sea salt
Extra virgin olive oil

Heat the oil in a heavy-based saucepan over med- high heat - add the lamb in batches cooking until browned, then remove from the pan. Add extra oil to the pan and add the onion and stir until lightly browned. Add the spices and sea salt and stir until fragrant, 1 min or so. Add the stock and a little extra water to cover if necessary, and return lamb to the pan. Simmer over low heat, covered, for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Add the prunes, sugar, lime juice, and saffron water. Cover and simmer for a further 30 minutes, or until the lamb is very tender.

Meanwhile, for the pumpkin - preheat the oven to 200°C. Combine the pumpkin pieces with some sea salt and toss in extra virgin olive oil. Put in a roasting tin and bake for about 20 minutes, or until just tender and lightly browned all over.
Add the pumpkin and most of the mint to the stew, keeping some aside for final garnish and freshness.

Serve the stew in wide bowls for the juices, with couscous to mop them up. Garnish with the roasted almonds or pistachios and the remaining mint.

Serves 4

Pictured: Saffron soaking in boiling water