Saturday, 29 September 2012

Fruit-y lamb with herb-y quinoa

As much as I have whined about missing various Finnish cooking ingredients, this post will be a celebration of something I have been enjoying immensely in the UK. And that, my friends, is affordable lamb. Actually affordable food in general. Every time I go to the grocery store I remind myself of how much cheaper food is in the UK compared to Finland. Back home, food, but particularly meat is crazy expensive. And I know it has only gotten more so in the few years I have been away, so I'm not sure I can ever go back. Also, in the UK the availability of lamb is superior compared to Finland. Several different cuts, sizes and nationalities of lamb. Even organic from time to time. All to reasonable prices. 

I have very mixed feelings about being a carnivore. On one hand, on my current diet plan, there is no way I could get enough proteins from vegetarian food while trying to keep down the calories. And I have some problems with the thought of eating soy, especially as it seems to maybe not be as healthy as has been thought. I don't think getting all your protein from whey powder is a viable option either. This is how I rationalise to myself my carnivorous cravings. At the same time, I'm aware of the horrible way animals are treated, and that is certainly not right either. So while I'm trying to cut down on the amount of meat I'm eating, I'm also acknowledging that I'm being a horrible hypocrite, thinking that basically what I'm doing is wrong but have no intention of changing it. I guess we should all aim, when possible (due to accessibility, economic factors etc) to buy organic meat, or even better, meat from local producers where you can actually go to the farm yourself and see how the animals live their lives. But for now I feel like thats a bit of an utopian thought. 

Well, now that I'm feeling extremely guilty about even thinking of posting this recipe, there is one more point to consider, which should not be important but it is to me. It is just... so... incredibly... tasty! 

This recipe is stolen and slightly modified from Epicurious.

Lamb apricot tagine (serves 4):
300g diced lamb
1tbsp rapeseed oil
black pepper
2-4 cloves garlic
1 onion
ginger root
1-2 tbsp Ras-el-Hanout (I also have used a mix of cinnamon, black pepper, cardamom, cloves, chilli and ground ginger as a replacement)
400g tinned tomatoes
1 chicken stock cube (and 500ml of boiling water)
230g chickpeas
1.25dl (1/2 cup) dried apricots and dried figs
150g quinoa
1/2 veggie stock cube

The howto:
If you are not using tinned chickpeas, prepare the chickpeas according to instructions. While chickpeas are cooking, heat oil in a frying pan, season lamb and brown on all sides, working in batches to keep the pan nice and hot all the time. Let lamb rest in a bowl, and fry onions, garlic and ginger. Add Ras-el-Hanout (or mix of spices) and cook for a minute or two. Add tomatoes and lamb, add stock cube and 500ml of water, let gently boil for at least 90 minutes, more if you have time and patience. When the lamb is almost done cooking, prepare the quinoa according to instructions. Finely chop mint and cilantro, and mix with the quinoa when it's done. 

Stir in chickpeas with the lamb, cook for another 10 minutes. Add the apricots and cook for a few more minutes. Serve with quinoa and sprinkle with finely chopped cilantro.

The verdict:
This is a great recipe, I love the mix of spices. I like to throw in a few cloves, some chilli and cardamom even if I'm using the Ras-el-Hanout to make it really spicy as the flavours will get a bit more smooth during the long cooking time. Also, this leaves the lamb succulent and soft enough to crumble to pieces at just the thought of touching it with a fork. The added sweetness from the apricots (I sometimes also like to throw in dried figs) goes perfectly with the spices, and the herbs, particularly the mint, in the quinoa bring a nice freshness to it all. This is a dish I can't get enough of, and every time lamb is on  special offer, I have to get some just to make this. The long cooking time is a bit of a challenge, as I tend to hover around in the kitchen, tasting the stew while it is cooking, as I just can't wait for it to finish cooking. 

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