I have been meaning to make a version of this for weeks - bought the lamb about a month ago and put it into the freezer and then, every week since, have thought ooooh I'll have that lamb stew this week. And then didn't. I had a vague idea of where I was going with it - sort of moorish (as well as moreish) with the addition of chickpeas for flavour and texture and some seasonal vegetables like aubergine and courgettes. I wanted it to be lighter than a winter dish and had just not entirely worked out what the final dish should taste like. Hence the hesitation.
Then, on the weekend, I made a particularly fine batch of roasted vegetables to go with rare roast beef and I had myself a eureka moment. If I salted and then added aubergine early in the process, added courgettes toward the end to retain some bite, and separately roasted peppers till they were sweet and charred to be included at the very end it would keep the flavour elements separate in the way that a good ratatoiulle is constructed. Worked a treat.
Braised Lamb, Chickpeas and Vegetables
125g chickpeas, soaked overnight with a tspn bicarb of soda
1 aubergine, cubed and salted
2 red peppers, cut into 1cm cubes
2 tbspns olive oil
2 onions, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
3 tbspns oil
500g diced lamb
1 tin tomatoes
1 tbspn tomato puree
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick
1tspn smoked paprika
1 tbspn ground cumin
2 courgettes, cut into rounds the thickness of a pound coin
Drain, rinse and boil the chickpeas for 30 minutes.
Put the chopped peppers onto a baking sheet with the oil and roast in the oven at gas 4 for 40 minutes till soft and sweet and a little bit charred.
In a large pan, fry the onions with the 3 tbspns oil till soft and golden – 20 minutes. Add the chopped garlic, paprika and cumin and stir through for a minute.
Rinse the aubergines and gently squeeze out the moisture then fry with the onions for a few minutes.
Add the lamb and fry till sealed.
Drain the chickpeas.
Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, chickpeas, cinnamon and bay leaves with water to cover.
Season with plenty of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Simmer gently, covered, for an hour.
Add the courgettes simmer, lid off, for another 20 minutes or so till the courgettes are cooked through. Stir the roasted peppers through for the last 5 minutes.
Serve with new potatoes or rice.
Though lamb is never going to be cheap this is a really lovely dish that makes the most of the flavour. The chickpeas helps it go a bit further - this makes six very satisfying servings.