This recipe for a warming, fragrant lamb stew, comes from Jamie Oliver's very first cookbook The Naked Chef. He looks incredibly young on the cover, but a quick check of the copyright page confirms that this book was published in 1999, when Jamie was but a lad, and had just burst onto the scene with his first tv series. I remember enjoying it very much: he was refreshingly laid back yet entirely enthusiastic about food and cooking and I loved the simplicity of his recipes. I still do, and regularly return them - because they work. And they are easy to make!

I still have a lot of time for Jamie, though I got a bit tired of seeing his gurning face on the Sainsbury's adverts (he seems to have severed his relationship with the supermarket to concentrate on other projects), because I feel he truly believes in what he does, with passionate commitment. And his recipes remaining interesting, tasty and easy to construct.

This lamb stew is redolent of a tagine where ingredients are cooked slowly with spices to allow all the flavours to develop and deepen. The addition of chickpeas add some bulk, while the aubergine gives it a sweetness. I usually serve it with couscous, and a dollop of harissa on the side, but you could quite happily enjoy it sans couscous as it is quite filling. Just the thing for a gusty October day!

Serves 4-6

1 400g tin of chickpeas, drained
2 large firm aubergines, cut into cubes, sprinkled with salt and set aside
salt and pepper to taste
10 fresh plum tomatoes, peeled, or a 400g can of plum tomatoes
1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
grated nutmeg to taste
4 neck of lamb fillets, cut into 2 inch pieces
4 tbsps olive oil
4 medium fresh chillis, chopped (or less if you don't want the heat)
2 tbsps grated fresh ginger
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp vinegar
fresh flat-leaf parsley and coriander, chopped

Heat the oil in a heavy casserole (Le Creuset) and brown the lamb pieces. Add the spices, ginger, garlic and chilli and give everything a good stir. Then add the chickpeas and tomatoes. Check seasoning.

In a separate pan, fry the aubergine pieces until slightly brown and then add to the lamb. Add the tomatoes and vinegar and give the pan a good shake. Turn the heat down to a gentle simmer, cover with a lid and cook for about an hour, by which time the tomatoes will have melted to a sauce and the aubergines will be sweet. Check seasoning.

Serve with couscou and garnished with parsley and coriander.


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