Lamb and Apricot Pilaff

An exotic and quite inexpensive dish, Lamb and Apricot Pilaff makes a delicious dinner party centrepiece. Serve with a tossed green salad, some crusty bread and a well-chilled bottle of Greek white wine, such as Hymettus or Retsina.

4

4 oz. butter

1 medium-sized onion, thinly sliced

12- lb. boned leg of lamb, cut into

1-inch cubes

3 oz. dried apricots, soaked overnight, drained and halved

3 tablespoons raisins

2 teaspoons salt

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon -½ teaspoon black pepper

1 ½ pints water

8 oz. long-grain rice, washed, soaked in cold water for

30 minutes and drained

In a large frying-pan, melt the butter over moderate heat. When the foam subsides, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, or until it is soft and translucent but not brown.

Add the lamb and cook, stirring and turning occasionally, for 5 to 8 minutes, or until it is lightly browned all over.

Stir in the apricots, raisins, 1 teaspoon of the salt, the cinnamon and pepper.

Pour in 16 fluid ounces of the water and bring to the boil, stirring occa-sionally. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and simmer the meat for 1 to ½ hours, or until the meat is tender when pierced with the point of a sharp knife.

Meanwhile, put the rice in a medium-sized saucepan. Pour over the remaining water and add the remaining salt. Place the saucepan over high heat and bring the water to the boil. Reduce the heat to very low, cover the pan and simmer the rice for 15 minutes. If all the liquid is not absorbed, continue to cook the rice, uncovered, until the rice is dry.

Remove the pan from the heat.

Preheat the oven to moderate 350 ‘F (Gas Mark 4, 180°C). Place one-third of the rice in a medium-sized ovenproof casserole. Cover with a layer of one-third of the meat mixture, then top with another one-third of the rice. Continue to make layers in this manner until all the ingredients have been used up, finishing with a layer of rice. Cover the casserole and place it in the oven. Bake the pilaff for 50 minutes.

Remove the casserole from the oven and serve at once.

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