Spiced lamb and rice with walnuts, mint and pomegranate Picture: Karsten Moran
Yield: 6 servings

Time: 2 hours

Ingredients:

1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked overnight, or 3 cups cooked or canned chickpeas

900g boneless lamb shoulder, cut in 2.5cm cubes

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, diced

1/2 cup golden raisins

2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses, optional

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon ground mace or nutmeg

1 cinnamon stick, 5cm long

1 1/2 cups basmati rice, soaked for 20 minutes and rinsed

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 cup walnut halves and pieces

1/2 cup fresh pomegranate seeds

2 tablespoons roughly chopped mint

Pinch of crushed red pepper

Thick plain yogurt, for serving

Method

If using dried chickpeas: Put soaked chickpeas in a saucepan and cover with water by 2.5cm. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for 45 minutes to an hour, until tender. Top up with water as necessary to keep chickpeas covered. (If using precooked or canned chickpeas, skip this step.)

Season lamb pieces generously with salt and pepper. In a large heavy skillet or Dutch oven with a lid, heat oil over medium-high heat. Working in batches over high heat, brown the lamb pieces on both sides, removing them to a plate as they are cooked. (Don’t crowd the pan or they won’t brown nicely.)

When all the lamb is browned and the pot is empty, reduce heat to medium high. Add onions, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and lightly browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Add raisins, pomegranate molasses (if using), cumin, coriander, allspice, mace, and cinnamon and stir to coat. Return lamb to the pot, along with any juices.

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

If using canned chickpeas, drain well. If using cooked chickpeas, drain and reserve the cooking liquid. Add drained chickpeas and rice to onion mixture and stir together. Turn heat to high and add 2 cups chickpea cooking liquid (or 2 cups water or broth, if using canned chickpeas). Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover tightly. Bake about 1 hour, until lamb is tender when probed with a fork and rice is cooked through. Let rest for at least 10 minutes before serving, or up to 30 minutes. 

Meanwhile, in a small skillet, melt butter over medium heat until it foams. Add walnuts and cook, stirring, until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Salt lightly and set aside. Fluff the lamb and rice gently, lifting up from the bottom. Serve directly from pot or transfer to a serving platter. Sprinkle with walnuts, pomegranate seeds, mint and crushed red pepper. Pass a bowl of yogurt at the table.

New York Times