Thursday 3 April 2008

Going Greek (or Lamb - One Perfect Ingredient)

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I never used to cook much with lamb. Initially, I think that was due to the fact that I only really started cooking when I was still a student, but had gotten sick of just eating pasta and chips, and back then I found lamb just too expensive. Later on, I (for some reason that evades me now) always thought that lamb was difficult to cook, but I was so wrong. I love it in all kinds of different ways, slow cooked in curries or stews, minced in burgers or kofta and as a wonderful roast, seasoned with garlic, rosemary and lemon. It's just so versatile, full of flavour and really not difficult to get right at all.


My sister gave me Tessa Kiros' 'Falling Cloudberries' for my birthday last November and I promised her that during her stay with us she could choose a recipe from it and I'd cook it. After a lot of flicking through the pages, drooling over photographs and some deliberation she (we) decided to give the recipe for Youvetsi a try. It's a lamb and tomato dish with orzo, slow cooked in the oven to make the lamb fall-apart tender. Me, being me, adapted the recipe a little. I halved it, but used more than half the amount of tomatoes as otherwise I would have had a silly rest from the can I opened. I also adapted the cooking times, as the orzo would have never cooked in the times given, and added 1/2 tsp of oregano, but otherwise I pretty much stuck to it. Anyways, here is the recipe with the amounts given in the book (as most of you are probably cooking for more than two or three people), but my additions and cooking times, which worked just fine.


Youvetsi (serves 4-6)

3tbsp olive oil
800gr lamb shoulder or leg, trimmed and cubed
2 red onions, chopped finely
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
600gr tinned tomatoes with juice (I used 400gr in half the recipe)
1 piece of cinnamon
30gr butter
3/4tsp oregano, dried
1 liter water
400gr orzo
parmesan, pecorino or kefalotiri, grated

Preheat you oven to 180C/Gas 4.

Heat the olive oil in a heavy based casserole dish and fry the lamb in batches, until sealed and starting to brown. Season with salt and pepper.

Remove the meat from the casserole, add a little more oil if needed and fry the onions until soft. Add the garlic and fry for another minute.

Return the meat to the casserole, add the tomatoes, cinnamon and butter and bring to a boil. Crush the tomatoes with a spoon and simmer for five minutes.

Pour in the water, stir, cover and place in the oven for an hour.

After an hour rinse and drain the uncooked orzo, add it to the casserole, cover and return to the oven for another 30 minutes or until it has soaked up the liquid and is cooked, stirring once half way through.

If you feel the dish is getting too dry add a little more water.

Stir in grated cheese before serving. If you prefer you can replace the parmesan, pecorino or kefalotiri with feta or halloumi.

This post has been written and entered for the ONE PERFECT INGREDIENT competition hosted by Maninas: Food Matters. Go have a look if you haven't already seen it, you can win the latest Marcus Wareing cookbook, 'One Perfect Ingredient, Three Ways to Cook It'.


Nic said...

I really like orzo and this looks like a great dish - I'll have to look through that book again after seeing this!

test it comm said...

Lamb is so good. I have been eating it a lot lately. That dish sounds tasty, I like the use of the cinnamon in it.

Anonymous said...

This looks great. And easy too. I can't wait to try it.

Jan said...

Wow - Now that looks nice. Another recipe I will HAVE to make!!
Thanks Sylvie

Sylvie said...

Nic, I like orzo a lot too. I was so happy when it started showing up on the shelves of my local Tesco.

Kevin, the cinnamon taste was ver, very subtle. I'd be tempted to add a little more next time, not that you'd want it to be very strong, but maybe just a bit more. Or maybe my cinnamon stick wasn't that fresh anymore?!

Beth, it was tasty and really easy to do.

Jan, thanks.

Marie Rayner said...

Great entry Sylvie. I love Tessa Kiros books. Her recipes are always fabulously delicious and quite simple to make! (Not to mention I almost always have teh ingredients to hand!) Your lamb looks luciously delicious as always!

Gloria Baker said...

Sylvie this looks really nice! Thanks to passing by to my blofg. Have a nice weekend.xxxGloria

Sylvie said...

Marie, it was the first time I cooked something from it. I've earmarked quite a few other recipes as well though.


Anonymous said...

Hi Sylvie,

Thanks for the great entry! This was a very interesting recipe + I love the photos!

I was quite intrigued by the name of this recipe! There's a dish popular all over former Yugoslavia that sounds similar to this, I mean the names sounds similar. It's also cooked with tomatoes, but it's basically something like a tomato risotto with courgettes, peppers and aubergine. I love the dish! Thanks for reminding me of it - I should post the recipe sometimes!

Sylvie said...

Maninas, thanks for your lovely comment and putting the competition together. I'd love to see the recipe you mention, it sounds great.

Anonymous said...

It's a pleasure!

I will definitely make that recipe in a couple of months, when all of that veg's in season! :)

Maggie said...

I too have that beautiful book. I was very interested in the recipe you have cooked.
Getting orzo isn't very easy where I live, we found some miles away in a huge Tesco!

Sylvie said...

Magaret, that's where I get it, too. I used to bring it over from germeny with me whenever I went to see my family, but I'm glad I now don't need to make space for it in my suitcase anymore. We have a huge Tesco just a mile and a half away.

Peter M said... did I miss this? Your giouvetsi looks grand, glad you enjoyed it!

Sylvie said...

Peter, is it a regional spelling. The cookbook I've got it from spells it with a Y and the author is half Greek?!