LAMB STUFFED APPLES. AZERBAIJAN.

Lamb apples Sophie Merkens -16.jpg

RECIPES FROM THE ROAD

Lamb stuffed apples

- Alma Dolmasi

Researching Azeri food I came across this variation of dolma. The word dolma comes from the Turkish verb meaning to fill or to stuff. In Azerbaijan you can stuff grape leaves, tomatoes, red peppers, onions, cabbage leaves, aubergines, and also apples, depending on the season or occasion. 

I don't usually cook meat. In my stationary life I have a low-or-no meat diet but in Central Asia meat is a staple. As we travel East it will become more prevalent, especially for nomads, who live off the animals they herd. On the road I eat what I can, already very limited by my gluten-free (coeliac) diet in this bread filled land. 

Whilst staying with Josh Africa in Mingəçevir, Azerbaijan, I took advantage of his kitchen and knowledge. Josh is a cycling legend, with 27,000 kilometres under his belt, he's the first Azeri to ever cycle down Africa. His kitchen is a fantastic mix of retro and kitsch, so I had fun using different prints, colours and the green table.

Cooking on the road is a whole experience. Once I met Josh and found the recipe, we set off to the nearby bazaar to source the ingredients. At the market we became the local celebrities, it's impossible to blend in here. Locals called out in Russian "she's my cousin/ my far off relative" claiming us as one of their own. Tali told one of the stall holders she was from Canada, we then heard the word 'Canada' echo through the stalls. The market was now informed. 

Pomegranates were stacked upon themselves, bunches of coriander were kept wet and fragrant spices sat in sacks ready to be sampled. At the butchers I made a sheep noise, which resulted in hysterics from all around but worked a treat to ensure I got lamb meat. 

RECIPE

The traditional dish has saffron, turmeric and baked chestnuts, but I simplified it. Other recipes also use rice and mint, something I would love to experiment with. When I ate this it reminded me of my childhood as my paternal grandparents would add apple sauce to everything, to encourage us to finish our meals and to honour our Dutch heritage. 

You can bake the apples wrapped in tinfoil, or put them in a casserole dish. This dish would work well in a slow cooker/ crockpot too. 

Prep time 30 minutes

Cook time 35-45 minutes

Makes 6 baked apples

Ingredients:

For the stuffing:

250 g lamb mince

1 large onion

1 T melted butter/ olive oil/ ghee

1 T cinnamon

1 t allspice

1 t salt

1/2 t pepper

For the apples:

6 apples

3 T honey

2 T lemon juice

250 ml bouillon

Method:

Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius. 

Finely dice onion. Put all the stuffing ingredients in a bowl and mix well.

Slice the top of the apples off. De-core and spoon some of the flesh out. Rub the inside of the apples with honey and lemon juice, this prevents them from going brown. Stuff the apples with the mixture and firmly place the apple top back on. If you are using tinfoil then wrap each in foil. Set the apples in the casserole dish or deep baking dish and pour the bouillon into the base. 

Cook for 35-45 minutes. Open the apples to check the meat is fully cooked. You can use the bouillon as a sauce.

In Azerbaijan this is eaten with fresh bread and kefir. We accompanied ours with rice to soak up the sweet sauce. We ate ours with Pomegranate wine, a local delicacy we couldn't resist trying.  

  A local shepherd who stopped for a chat and offered us tea.

A local shepherd who stopped for a chat and offered us tea.

  Pomegranates stacked and ready to sample at the market.

Pomegranates stacked and ready to sample at the market.

  At the market people waved us down to be photographed, including this lovely gentleman.

At the market people waved us down to be photographed, including this lovely gentleman.

  Hand picking tomatoes and fresh produce.

Hand picking tomatoes and fresh produce.

  Bag of wool and Lada in the local Bazaar.

Bag of wool and Lada in the local Bazaar.

  Radishes and smiles.

Radishes and smiles.

  Spices, dried fruits and pulses.

Spices, dried fruits and pulses.

  Standing proud by his apple stall.

Standing proud by his apple stall.