Lamb is, bar none, the favourite meat of those who consider Wales to be the land of their fathers. It is the quintessential meat and taste of my ancient, proud Celtic nation, which also, as the English would have it, finds itself inhabited solely by ‘sheep-shaggers’ or, to put it more politely, ‘wool-fondlers’. However, as the landscape of New Zealand or the cuisine of Greece suggests, Wales isn’t the only country in the world in which lamb reigns supreme. It is a meat considered by many, including me, to be the perfect balance between flavour and tenderness. Indeed, if you don’t mind my saying so, there are few things which exist on God’s earth as pleasant as the feeling of the freshly braised neck of a young wool-covered ruminant on one’s tongue. Anyway, that’s enough ruminating; too much deep-thought can do catastrophic damage to one’s mind.
I do hope you’re all ready for a little bad news; we, that is my girlfriend’s entire family and I, are off to Spain tomorrow for an enticing two-week break in a small village called Navalmoral. You see, my girlfriend’s brother and his Spanish fiancé, Bea, are getting married next week and we’re turning it into an extended hiatus. Of course, this means that there will be a considerable dearth of literary material for your eyes and stomach to digest and for this I apologise. Still, you have my word that on my return there will be myriad different recipes and experiences about which you shall find yourselves forcibly enlightened. Indeed, there may even be a few hidden surprises lurking up my sleeve… only time will tell. However, in the spirit of ending each paragraph on the theme of mastication, that’s quite enough chewing of the cud.
Since buying my first bag of orzo mere weeks ago my respect for the deceptive pasta has grown exponentially. It turns out that it is the perfect ingredient for both salads and casseroles, since it provides a really seductive and sensuous texture which holds flavour extremely well between the individual grains. The almost floral flavour of the lamb combined with the fruity notes of the red wine couple very well with the structure the orzo provides to bring one’s mouth a deliciously rich and almost spicy sensation. Furthermore, this rather enjoyable taste is only exacerbated by the cinnamon stick and bay leaves – despite the rather balmy weather we are experiencing this really is one recipe not to miss. The idea that we experience relatively cold, wet days in summer here in Britain is certainly one to mull over. The cows will be happy.
Greek Lamb with Orzo
• 1 onion, diced
• 1 cinnamon stick
• 2-3 bay leaves
• 2 cloves of garlic
• 400g tin of peeled plum tomatoes
• 200ml red wine, a fruity or floral as possible
• A little water or stock, around 200ml
• 400g stewing lamb, preferably neck or neck fillets
• 200g orzo
• Olive oil
• Salt and Pepper
1. Begin frying off the onions in a little olive oil, add in the bay leaves, cinnamon stick and garlic and cook for 5-10 minutes. Add the lamb and cook until sealed before tipping in the tomatoes and stock and red wine. The sauce should come up to the top of the meat; adjust the quantity of stock accordingly.
2. After the meat has been simmering for at least 2 hours, preferably 3, reduce if necessary and add the orzo. If the meat is on the bone, as with neck, remove the bones. Cook until orzo is tender, season and serve as soon as possible with parsley and a hunk of bread, though the latter is entirely optional.
Cost: Lamb can be incredibly cheap if one knows what cut goes with what. Please, please don’t buy an expensive cut for this; the flavour tends to be better with meat closer to the bone, so stewing meat or neck meat is the better option. As such, this dish is extremely cost-effective and should set one back a little less than £5.