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Lamb Stew with Lentils and Spinach

The lentils in this recipe gradually absorb the meat juices and spices to take on a rich, mellow flavour. Always pick over the lentils before cooking, to remove any small stones. Use fresh spinach when possible, choosing greens with small tender leaves that are springy to the touch; the peak season is late spring. This dish goes well with a side serving of fresh yoghurt and sliced cucumber.
Preparation time : 35 minutes ,
Soaking time : overnight,
Cooking time : 1 1/2 hours,
Calories per serving: 545

ingredients

serves 4 - 5
1 lb (450 g) shoulder of lamb
1/2 lb (225g) green or brown lentils
1 lb (450 g) fresh spinach
or 8 oz (225 g) frozen chopped spinach
1 onion
2 cloves garlic
2 carrots
1 1/2 oz (40 g) butter
1 tablespoon virgin olive oil
14 oz (400 g) tin peeled tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 dried chilli peppers (optional)
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
2 tablespoons parsley or fresh coriander

method

1. Wash the lentils in cold water. If necessary, soak them overnight, and then drain. Soaking shortens Cooking time and prevents splitting. However, most lentils are tender enough to need little or no soaking.

2. Trim the fat from the lamb and dice the meat into 1 in (25 mm) cubes. If you are using fresh spinach, wash it thoroughly. Finely slice the onion and garlic, and peel and slice the carrots into rounds.

3. Place 1/2 oz (15 g) of the butter and the olive oil into a large flameproof casserole. Heat until the butter melts and sizzles, and then add the lamb cubes, stirring until they are sealed and browned. Leaving the fat in the casserole, remove the lamb with a slotted spoon and keep it to one side.

4. Add the onion, garlic and carrots to the casserole and cook over a moderate heat until softened. Next add the tomatoes, lamb pieces, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of pepper, optional chillies, lentils and enough water to just cover the mixture. Stir in the cumin and simmer for 1 1/4 hours, until the lentils are cooked. Add a little more water if the mixture begins to dry. Set the mixture aside when cooked.

5. Cook the spinach in 1 oz (25 g) of the butter with a little salt and the ground coriander. Reheat the lentil mixture and stir in the cooked spinach. Sprinkle with chopped parsley or fresh coriander and serve.

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