This is a Persian recipe, but we found it in Lindsey Bareham’s book The Fish Store (not exclusively a book of fish recipes despite the title). It is very easy to make and the combination of lamb and rhubarb made it seem particularly appropriate as a dinner for Easter Sunday – two traditional spring ingredients in an unusual partnership.
Our version was a little light on herbs, as we had run low – mint is important to the taste, which should be very fresh and lemony. You can use boned shoulder of lamb, but neck fillet is very easy to prepare, much leaner and quite good value as there is no waste. The delicacy of forced rhubarb isn’t essential to the dish; the stew is just as good made with outdoor grown rhubarb later in the season.
2 large onions
salt and pepper
1.2kg lamb neck fillet
2 tbsp olive oil
2 generous pinches of saffron stamens
juice of 1 lemon
600ml chicken stock
80g bunch of flat-leaf parsley
handful mint leaves
Peel, halve and finely slice the onions. Melt half the butter in a large casserole and stir in the onions, seasoning with salt. Cover and cook gently for 15-20 minutes, stirring from time to time, until they are really soft but still hardly coloured. Meanwhile, cut the neck fillet into large cubes, trimming away any excess fat. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan, add about half the remaining butter and brown the meat on all sides, in batches. Soften the saffron in a little boiling water.
Add the meat and saffron to the sloppy onions, season generously with pepper and add half the lemon juice and the stock. Cover, bring to the boil, then turn down to a gentle simmer and cook for an hour. It can be cooked to this point in advance.
Finely chop the parsley and mint, leaving aside about 1 tbsp parsley. Melt the last of the butter in a frying pan and gently stir-fry the chopped herbs for a couple of minutes. Trim the rhubarb and cut into 5cm lengths, then stir the rhubarb and herbs into the casserole and cook, uncovered, for a further 20 minutes or so until the sauce has reduced a little and the rhubarb has disintegrated. Check the seasoning, adding more salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste. Add the last of the parsley just before serving.
Serve with basmati rice, and some Greek yoghurt to stir into the juices if you wish.