These apples stuffed with lamb and spices are self-contained bundles of sweetly savoury deliciousness.
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 celery stick, chopped
2 garlic cloves crushed
100g chestnut mushrooms, chopped small
11/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp ground cloves
350g lamb mince
150ml dry vermouth, plus extra
11/2 tsp red wine vinegar
11/2 tsp honey or pomegranate molasses
2 bay leaves
1 sprig rosemary
8 medium-large eating apples
2 tbsp chopped mint leaves
Heat the olive oil in a frying pan. Cook the onion and celery until softened, then add the garlic and the mushrooms. Once the mushrooms have softened too, stir in the spices for a minute to warm them and release the oils. Tip in the lamb, turn the heat up a little and brown the meat. Season. Pour in the vermouth, vinegar and honey; and tuck in the bay and rosemary. Simmer for 20 mins without a lid. Heat the oven to 200C.
Prepare the apples by cutting a line around each apple’s equator to pierce the skin and then slicing off the top quarter of the apple. Cut out and discard the each apple’s core - but don’t go through the base of the apple. Use a teaspoon to remove the apple flesh, keeping an edge of 5mm. Chop the apple flesh into the frying pan, along with the mint. Cook the lamb and apple mixture for a further 5 mins. (Don’t worry that the emptied apples turn brown, you are going to fill them.)
Sit the apple shells in a baking dish. Pull out and discard from the frying pan the bay leaves and rosemary stalk, check the seasoning. Fill the apple shells with the lamb mix. Really pack it in, you should be able to use most of it. Place the apple lids on top, giving a gentle press down. Pour a little vermouth into the basket of the baking dish, and put it into the oven for 20 mins.
The apples will puff up, the lids will teeter, and they will be great served with a light salad, rice or couscous.
(This recipe originally featured for Borough Market.)