What can I say? There’s no way I’m ever going to be a traditionalist. Stew in the Summer? Bring it on. I think I’m far too indulgent to refuse anything I really want. Makes for a very interesting life, but people do tend to stare at you a little strangely. Whenever I’ve been to Greece, I always come back about a stone heavier because of things like this. Red meat, flatbreads, beer, barbecues and hideous amounts of tzatziki. Oh, my, word do you have an amazing food-gasm for most of your holiday. But you do come back feeling somewhat doughy, for lack of another word to describe it.
I also tend to go through food phases, one week I’ll eat heinous amounts of noodles, the next it’ll be pasta, the week after it’ll be seafood. My current phase is Greek food, quite obviously. This stew has actually got quite a beautiful combination of light and fragrant flavours from the cinnamon and clove, and the rich, thickness of tomato and oregano. Serve it in the Summer with something light, like lemon and black pepper cous cous, and in the Winter with a massive chunk of crusty bread and roasted aubergines and courgettes. Either way pop a bit of natural yoghurt with this to lift it a little.
What part of the lamb you use is entirely up to your own personal preference, I find that a good chunk of a leg of lamb does the trick, you want to keep the meat nice and big, so you can get that wonderful crust around the edge without cooking it all the way through.
Greek Lamb Stifado
Serves 2 starving people.
Around 500g lamb – chopped into big chunks
4 shallots (or 1 large onion) – finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Vegetable stock pot (diluted in about a pint of boiling water)
1 can of chopped tomatoes
1 squeeze of good quality tomato puree
Good sprinkling of dried oregano
2 cloves (or a pinch of ground cloves)
2 or 3 allspice berries (or a pinch of ground allspice)
3 bay leaves
Good pinch of cinnamon (or 1 big ish piece of cinnamon bark)
Few turns of a pepper mill
– Pop a large, deep frying pan on a high heat, and once hot put in a big glug of olive oil.
– Once it’s shimmering, place the big chunks of lamb in there and leave for a few minutes to brown very well, then do the same until all sides are beautifully dark and gnarled. (it absolutely will spit at your face, so don’t burn yourself)
– Turn down the heat to a low-medium heat and add the shallots/onions until they’re just starting to soften.
– Turn the heat briefly up very high and add a cup of water (or red wine if you have some knocking around) to deglaze the bottom of the pan.
– Add all the other ingredients, and leave to simmer for around 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally.
– It’ll be even better the next day. Trust. Me.
You are very welcome to add more meat to this too and make it into a Greek-i-fied pulled-lamb sort of dealio for large parties. Served with a bright, crunchy, lightly dressed salad and pittas or flatbreads and tzatziki (of course, I am obsessed!).