Lamb with prunes, chilli, coriander and spice mix

Lamb with prunes, chilli, coriander and spice mix

A Year In My Kitchen

I really love the process of long slow cooking – how with time, thought and patience, a dish transforms itself from simple ingredients to complex layered flavours that enliven the palate and satisfy the soul. This dish, more than any other, typifies the way I cook. Layering flavours on top of each other, countering the warmth of spices with the cool of lime, balancing salty and sweet flavours. Base notes resonate with top notes to create a harmony that feels just right to me.


Quantity Ingredient
1 boned medium leg lamb
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
generous bunch coriander
3 red onions, peeled and finely sliced
2-3cm piece very fresh root ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 tablespoon tamarind water
3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
2 red chillies, finely chopped
2 tablespoons see method for ingredients
1.5 litres see method for ingredients
2 x 400g cans good quality chopped tomatoes
3-4 bay leaves
2 cinnamon sticks
100ml tamari, or to taste
75ml maple syrup, or to taste
200g prunes
1-2 limes, juiced, to taste


  1. Cut the lamb into 5cm pieces, trimming away any fat. Season the meat generously with salt and pepper. Place a large heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat and add the olive oil. When it is really hot (starting to smoke), brown the lamb in small batches (to avoid overcrowding the pan). Turn the meat to colour on all sides but don’t fiddle with it any more than you need to. As each piece is ready, remove it from the pan and set aside on a plate, while you brown the rest. Wash the coriander, separate the leaves and set aside for garnishing if you like, then finely chop the root and stems.
  2. Once all the meat is browned and put aside, pour off excess fat from the pan, lower the heat slightly and add the onions. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or so, until they have begun to soften. Add the ginger, tamarind water, garlic, chillies, spice mix and chopped coriander root and stems. Cook, stirring, for a further 5 minutes. Add the chicken stock, increase the heat a little and bring to the boil. Add the tomatoes, bay leaves and cinnamon and bring back to the boil.
  3. Put the meat back into the pan, cover with the lid and turn the heat down to low. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes. After this time, the meat should be almost tender and your base note flavours in place. To balance the flavours, you now need to add the tamari (for salt, depth and colour), maple syrup (for sweetness), prunes (for texture) and lime juice to balance the earthy tones of the spices. Stir well, turn the heat up very slightly and cook for another 30 minutes.
  4. Before serving, check the seasoning and scatter over some roughly torn coriander leaves if you like.


  • I like to serve this with a sweet potato purée rather than couscous, and a peppery green salad dressed with grated Parmesan, lemon zest, olive oil and lemon juice. A cooling dollop of yoghurt flavoured with a hint of chilli, coriander, lime and olive oil also goes well.
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