It's the Friday before Easter weekend (Really?) and you (we) have no idea what to cook on Sunday (oops). Lucky us, Nigel Slater's new book Ripe: A Cook in the Orchard, which hits stands next week, has just shown up at our doorstep.

We're considering the book's arrival a premonition. We should really be cooking up something beyond the ordinary roast ham or lamb shanks this year, something saffron-scented and intensely colored with turmeric and paprika. The sort of dish that stains the tablecloth, the tips of your fingers, those boiled eggs you forgot to dye earlier this week. And there it is, on page 86: Lamb tagine with apricots. Even the recipe layout is a little offbeat.

And if we can't find fresh apricots, and we suspect we will not, we'll be trying the recipe with dried apricots instead. It's not such a crazy idea, as there are already raisins and preserved lemons in the dish. Besides, we all should have a little Easter egg hunt (recipe) fun, shouldn't we?

More on the book next week. Get the recipe after the jump.

A Spice Market Colored Easter; Credit: flickr/Mohamed Haykal

A Spice Market Colored Easter; Credit: flickr/Mohamed Haykal

A Tagine of Lamb with Apricots

From: Ripe by Nigel Slater

Serves: 4

Note per Slater: “Of all the fruit and meat marriages, this is the one that appeals to me most. Meat, spices, and apricots probably work better together than any combination since roast pork and applesauce.”

diced lamb shoulder – 2 1/4 pounds

ground cinnamon – 2 teaspoons

ground cumin – 2 teaspoons

ground turmeric – 2 teaspoons

sweet paprika – a tablespoon

hot paprika – a teaspoon

olive oil – 2 tablespoons

onions – 3

garlic cloves – 4

golden raisins – scant ½ cup

honey – 2 tablespoons

saffron threads – 1 teaspoon

stock – 3 cups (750 ml)

chopped tomatoes – two 14-ounce cans

apricots – 12 ounces

a preserved lemon

cilantro leaves – a handful

mint leaves – a handful

1. Toss the cubed lamb in half of the ground spices and leave for at least four hours. Overnight would be ideal.

2. Preheat the oven to 325 F. Warm the olive oil in a deep, heavy-bottomed baking dish and add the seasoned meat in small batches. Remove when it is browned nicely on all sides. Peel and coarsely chop the onions, then peel and finely slice the garlic. Add to the pan with the remaining spices and allow to soften and color lightly. Stir regularly over medium heat so that the spices flavor the onions but do not burn.

3. Add the raisins, honey, saffron threads, stock, tomatoes, and apricots, then return the meat to the pan. Bring to a boil, season with salt and black pepper, then cover with a lid and place in the oven. Cook for two and a half hours.

4. Cut the preserved lemon in half and discard the interior pulp. Finely chop the skin and stir it into the tagine. Lift out the meat with a slotted spoon and boil the sauce over high heat until it is reduced and thick, then stir in the coarsely torn cilantro and mint leaves. Return the meat to the sauce and serve.

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