My mum makes the best Tass Kabab. I don’t know what it is about hers. It is such a simple dish yet hers has all the juices and fragrance that can come out of cinnamon, meat, tomatoes and prunes. She would layer all the raw ingredients – including the meat, so no searing involved – then let it cook slowly while we did all sorts of things around the house. We knew the dish was done when the air was filled with the scent of caramelised onions, cinnamon and meat.

Tass Kabab is similar to a Moroccan tagine with its sweet and sour combination. Serve with crusty bread to soak up the juices left on your plate and some sharp torshi (pickles, page 84).

2 tbsp olive oil
2 large onions, sliced in 1cm (1/2in) whole rings
1kg (2lb) de-boned leg of lamb or stewing beef, cut into 5–7.5cm (2–3in) cubes
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 large carrots, peeled and cut into 5cm (2in) discs
3 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 7.5cm (3in) pieces
4 tomatoes, sliced
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp turmeric
1 1/2 tsp salt
few twists of pepper
10–12 Persian unpitted golden dried plums or pitted prunes
2 tbsp butter
juice of 1 small lemon or 1 rounded tsp powdered Omani lime (or more, to taste)
1/2 tsp saffron threads, pounded and dissolved in 2–3 tbsp hot water

This recipe works best in a heavy cast-iron pot, but a regular casserole will do. Add 1 tbsp olive oil to the pan. Begin layering the ingredients. Start with the sliced onions: spread some out on the bottom of the pan. Then add a layer of meat, onions again, chopped garlic, carrots, potatoes and the tomatoes, sprinkling the layers with a little cinnamon powder, turmeric and salt and pepper and adding a few plums or prunes as you go.

Once all the ingredients are used up, add the rest of the oil, the butter and the lemon juice or powdered lime.

Cover, place on medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, then lower the heat to its lowest setting and let the casserole cook gently for about 45–60 minutes or until the meat is fork-tender. Add the saffron liquid 10 minutes before the end of cooking time.

I like to put the pot on the table and let everyone help themselves. Serve with some bread – and watch out for the plum stones!

TIP: If you don’t have any plums or prunes or want to try a variation, substitute fresh apples or quince (with their skins on). Cut them into large chunks or wedges so they keep their shape while they cook. They will become soft, aromatic and add a sweet tang to the dish.

You can also substitute 1½ tbsp green advieh mixture (page 204) for the individual spices.