I have a massive food writing boner for Elisabeth Luard. Oh, the purple prose is saturated all up the spectrum, but the way she writes about food just hits me where I live. She gets it.
For my favourite of her books, European Peasant Cookery, she basically bummed around Europe for a few years, bothering people in cottages. The result is a vast (if occasionally austere) compendium of stews, broths, salads, and thrift food.
Some of the recipes you can use verbatim; some benefit from a tweak. This simple lamb stew is one I’ve mucked about with, but the core concept is delightful – melting, slow-cooked lamb, a shiver of citrus through it. This is the good stuff, and it works just a well on a lazy spring evening as for winter comfort.
I served this with rye bread and a salad adapted from Jerusalem, but roast or baked potatoes would go just as well. In fact, I’d be tempted by sweet potato rosti. The salad I’ll cover in another post, but it’s basically just lentils, peppers, and green beans.
- Lamb (boned shoulder works well, around a kilo for 4)
- 2 Lemons
- Plump green olives
- White wine
- Fresh oregano
Dice lamb into chunky pieces, and put it into a heavy, ovenproof casserole with a splash of olive oil. Juice the lemons and add this too.
Put the lid on the casserole and cook the lamb in a hot-ish oven (say, 200, maybe a touch higher) for around 30 minutes. You can also do this on a medium heat on the hob. If the meat gives off much liquid, you may need to take the lid off for a few minutes. The aim here is to reduce somewhat, and brown a little.
Add a good handful of (pitted) green olives, about a tablespoon of chopped fresh oregano, and a glass of crisp white wine. If it looks dry, splash in a bit of water, too.
Return to the oven, covered, and cook a little lower for about an hour, or until the lamb is fall-apart tender and the sauce scant and thick.
Serve with bread or some other solid mopping carbs.
The colour won’t be the most appetising, but the flavour is something else. The citrus can be overpowering if you’re not careful, but it needs to be strong. That sharpness through the richness of the lamb, backed up by the olives, combines to be both earthy and fresh.
It’s an impressive flavour for toss-all effort, too.