Italian lamb stew

Italian Lamb Stew

I had every intention of cooking Osso Bucco Milanese this weekend, but there was no veal to be had at the butcher, not even for ready money. So I went back to Claudia Roden and there found a recipe for Cutturiddi, a simple lamb stew from Basilicata in southern Italy, at the instep of Italy’s foot. Using the recipe as a springboard, I made this Italian lamb stew, keeping the meat in larger pieces (see this previous post about stews), adding a soffrito of celery, carrot, onion and garlic at the start, and cooking it in a slow oven rather than on the stove. I used lamb neck, which the helpful butcher at the Quality Chop House shop recommended as being less fatty than shoulder and his preferred choice for a lamb stew.  It was very straightforward to make and the lighter sauce of vegetables, tomatoes and white wine produced a more spring-like stew compared to the dark, intense daube we made recently.

Italian Lamb StewI served it with some excellent purple sprouting broccoli from the Bloomsbury Farmers Market and brown basmati rice, which may not be authentically Italian, but worked well with the stew. To start we had a fresh, zingy salad of shaved fennel and blood oranges, and followed it with cheese (Caerphilly and goat’s cheese from Neal’s Yard) and Simon Hopkinson’s rich, silky chocolate pots. Serves 6.

1kg neck of lamb
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp flour
salt and pepper
1 onion
4 stems celery
6 medium carrots
3 cloves garlic
1 tin tomatoes
sprig rosemary
a good pinch of hot chilli powder
2 bay leaves
200 ml dry white wine

Cut the neck into large pieces (about 5cm square). Peel the carrots and cut into four lengthwise, then into dice. Dice the onion and celery and chop the garlic finely. Heat the oven to 150 C/Gas 2. Put the flour in a shallow dish, season with salt and pepper and turn the pieces of lamb in it. Heat the olive oil in a large casserole and brown the meat on all sides over a fairly high heat. You will need to do this in at least two batches, putting the meat aside on a plate as it is ready.

Soffrito for Italian lamb stewIf necessary, add a little more olive oil to the pan and tip in the prepared onion, carrot and celery. Turn down the heat and cook gently for about 5 minutes or so. Add the garlic and cook for another few minutes until the aromas start to rise from the pan. Put in the bay leaves, rosemary and  the tin of tomatoes, crushing them and mixing them into the soffrito, plus the chilli powder. I only had mild chilli powder and should have added a bit more than I did as you couldn’t really taste it, so do vary according to what kind of chilli you have and how much heat you like. Put the meat back into the sauce and add the white wine. You may need to  add either a little more wine or top up with some water (as I did) so that the liquid just covers the meat. Bring to a simmer and cook in the oven for 1½ hours. I cooked the stew a few hours ahead, and reheated it when we were ready to sit down for dinner. As both the starter and dessert could be prepared ahead, only the rice and purple sprouting broccoli needed attention  at the last minute, leaving me free to enjoy a glass of wine with our guests before dinner.

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