Khabli Palau (Lamb with Apricots)

Truth be told, C wasn’t the only guy who proposed. There was this one fellow in Egypt, the proprietor of the gift shop on our cruise boat, who did too. Of course, this was all in jest. But I must say that I took advantage of the situation and managed to convince him to get down in Luxor and procure an Egyptian cookbook for me. He feigned shock and said that I would never have to cook if I married him, but went and found the book anyway.

You can imagine my excitement to bust it open and try some of the recipes! It’s a relatively simple cookbook from the Bonechi publishing group. Looking through it I spotted a promising sounding Lamb with Apricots dish, Khabli Palau. I like lamb, I had the dried apricots it called for on hand, and it incorporated rice (Yahoo!) in the dish so...done deal!

Here’s the recipe (with some tweaking and omissions due to a lack in the family cupboards):

Khabli Palau, Lamb with Apricots
(adapted from Egyptian Cooking by Bonechi)

- 600 grams lean lamb (I used a bit more), in bite sized chunks
- 100 grams dried apricots (the recipe called for more but at 100 grams it looked to be enough to me)
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 tablespoon raisins
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon (the recipe called for nutmeg as well…but sadly, I had none on hand)
- Saffron, a generous pinch or so
- 50 grams butter
- 1 small pieces of ginger smashed (the recipe did not call for this but I thought the taste would be a nice addition and add a little contrast to the sweet elements)
- salt and pepper

Here’s what you do:

- Sprinkle the pieces of lamb with the cinnamon, nutmeg, saffron, salt, and pepper.
- Sautee the chopped onions and ginger in the butter. Add the meat.
- Add ½ liter (2 cups) boiling, salted water. Cover and cook on low heat for 30 minutes.
- Add the apricots and raisins, and cook until lamb is tender.
- Grease a baking dish with butter and cover the bottom with cooked rice, pressing well (the recipe had instructions for cooking the rice, but we always have cooked rice lying around here so I just used that).
- Put the meat mixture over the rice and cover with another layer of rice.
- Cover the dish with a sheet of aluminum foil and bake at 160 C/325 F for 30 minutes.

Not bad for my first attempt I would say. I thoroughly enjoyed it, mainly because of the sweetness from the apricots, punctuated perfectly by the cinnamon, and expertly reined in just a tad by the ginger. I also love that the rice was incorporated into the dish instead of being just a “side”. I will definitely be using less rice next time though. Look at the picture! The rice looks like it’s attempting a hostile takeover!

Some notes: The sweetness was just right for me (yes, I am that sort that enjoys a little sweetness in her savories at times); however it was just this side of crossing the sweetness line. Good thing I lessened the apricots! The ginger helped cut the sweetness a bit, which was excellent, but next time I will be chopping it up very finely instead of blithely tossing the smashed chunks in. My brother bit into one of the chunks and he was NOT happy about it.