Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Lamb for Lunch

I have been struggling to find adequate words to describe a lamb recipe that I tried on Sunday. Simplicity itself, it comes from one of Marcella Hazan’s Italian Cookery Books. She always stays true to the authentic flavours of Italy and this one transported me right back in time, to my days working in Italy. The lamb cooks to tenderness in a small amount of white wine, flavoured with rosemary and garlic. This reduces itself to what high falluting restaurants used to call a jus (maybe they still do, it’s a long time since I’ve been to one) a concentrated drizzle of intense flavour that coats the lamb and leaves just enough to mop off your plate with some new potatoes or oven-roasted potato cubes. With some salad or green vegetables it is a meal fit for a king and the best thing I’d cooked us for a very long time. I was still mopping the juices from my plate with potatoes long after I was full.

Italian Lamb Stew Recipe

This recipe works for most cuts of lamb, from large hunks on the bone, to chops, to boneless cubes for stewing - the only difference is the amount of cooking time needed to make the lamb tender. For large pieces about two hours, small 1 – 1 ½ hours should be enough, but check for tenderness – the meat should start coming away from the bone easily.

750g-900g (1 ¾ - 2lb) lamb
4-5 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cloves of garlic
1 sprig of rosemary or ½ teaspoon dried rosemary
125ml/ ½ cup dry white wine
salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed pan, to which you have a lid, over a medium-high heat. Put in the lamb, garlic and rosemary and brown the lamb on all sides. (Don’t let the garlic darken too much). Once the lamb is nicely browned, add salt and freshly ground pepper then pour over all the wine. Let the wine bubble and turn the meat over in it a couple of times, then turn down the heat and put on the lid. Cook at a gentle simmer for 1-2 hours depending on the size of the meat pieces. Turn the meat once or twice during this time. If all the liquid has evaporated before the end of the cooking time, add two tablespoons of water. Once the lamb feels tender when you pierce it with a fork, take it out on to a warm serving dish. Draw off most of the fat with a spoon. If there is a lot of liquid in the pan, turn up the heat and let it bubble to reduce. If there is hardly any, add a couple of tablespoons of water and scrape up the cooking residue to make a delicious gravy. Pour this over the lamb and serve immediately.

There are lots of variations on this basic recipe. If you ever tire of this simple version, try adding one of the following:

1 red pepper peeled, deseeded and cut into thin strips added to the lamb near the end of its cooking time

225g/8oz tinned tomatoes with their juice, added after the wine has bubbled, before you turn the heat down.

450g/1lb fresh French/green beans topped and tailed and added after the wine has bubbled, before you turn the heat down.

I’m already wondering how long to wait before I cook this again. The children loved it too and I don’t want to dull their appreciation into “Oh, this again” too soon.

1 comment:

  1. *drool* I would kill to be able to make this dish! Unfortunately the husband "doesn't do" lamb. Ack.


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