I’m a big fan of one pot cooking.
Step 1. Throw ingredients into pan
Step 2. Leave in oven for several hours
Step 3. Check on food once or twice
Step 4. Scoff the lot
Of course there are practical benefits – it’s incredibly easy, you can prepare everything in advance, it makes cooking for a big group of people simple, taking the the stress out of a dinner party, plus you can use cheap cuts which are both cheap and delicious. But for me I love the way that one pot cooking and slow-cooking in particular allows time for the flavours to develop, especially if you cook it the day before you want to eat it. A stew is always better if left for 24 hours – richer, thicker, more flavoursome and comforting – just how it should be.
I’m often inspired by my friends’ cooking. They open up my eyes to new combinations of flavours and ingredients that I would never have thought of – often so simple, just never experienced.
This lamb, chickpea and spinach stew was cooked for me by a friend. The original recipe is a harira, or Berber soup, by Ottolenghi, but I like the way she adapted it to become a stew, which feels a bit more substantial for a dinner party. I love soup but after a whole winter of eating nothing but for lunch, I need a change. It was also the first time I’d had lamb neck which, like ox cheek, is a cheap cut and requires slow-cooking for it to become really tender.
This is the sort of dish that’s ideal for a low key dinner party, or just an easy Sunday night supper. A dollop of sour cream wouldn’t go amiss here.
Lamb, chickpea and spinach stew
Ingredients (serves two generously)
– 1 x tin of chickpeas, drained
– 400g diced lamb neck
– 1 large onion, chopped roughly
– 1 x tin chopped tomatoes
– 2 x tbsp tomato puree
– 1 x dessert spoon of sugar
– 2 x tsp Pul Biber
– 1 x heaped tsp ground ginger
– 1 x heaped tsp ground cumin
– a pinch of saffron strands
– 400ml stock
– 100g baby spinach
– 4 x tbsp roughly chopped coriander
– A few lemon wedges
– Maldon sea salt and freshly milled black pepper
Gently sweat the chopped onions in olive oil over a medium heat until soft and translucent. Add the Pul Biber and fry for a further 30 seconds.
Add the diced lamb neck and fry for a few minutes until the meat has sealed on all sides and has started to colour.
Add the spices, chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, stock, lemon juice and chickpeas and simmer gently over a low heat for approximately an hour to an hour and a half. It is ready when the meat is tender and the sauce has thickened to a nice stew consistency. You may need to add a bit more stock if you feel the meat needs more cooking or the sauce thickens too quickly.
Season with salt and pepper and stir in the spinach and chopped coriander just before serving. Serve with a big wedge of lemon and some more fresh, chopped coriander on top.
NB This is my own version based on Ottolengi’s lamb, chickpea and spinach harira.