Lamb with chestnuts
Lamb on the bone, slow-cooked with touches of Mediterranean spices.
When I saw fresh quarters of lamb of in the supermarket, I decided that it was worth the price. The butcher sliced off the chops and cut the shoulder and breast into thin pieces about 3 inches across. Not the way I would have liked it cut, but try to argue with a determined butcher who’s already pushing the meat through his electric slicer.
I froze the chops for grilling later and looked at the rest of the cut-up meat. Lots of little pieces with bone in them. Cooked slowly in wine, they would make a fine, light stew. Could be worse.
My usual way with lamb is to surround it with aromatic herbs like rosemary and thyme, garlic and dried fruit. But I have this bag of peeled chestnuts, bought with some abandoned recipe in mind. I wondered, how would lamb go with chestnuts?
Sighing, I picked up a nearby cookbook by Claudia Roden and looked lamb up in the index. Lo and behold – lamb with chestnuts. I cheered up. The dish looked interesting and easy. And so it is, if you have pre-peeled chestnuts.
Mrs. Roden’s recipe calls for cooking the meat in water, but I substituted dry red wine for it. I also couldn’t resist adding something fruity, so I found my jar of dried citrus peels and dropped a strip of orange peel into the stew. It was all cooked up in my tajine, and I discovered all over again how delicious lamb cooked with cinnamon tastes.
- 2 pounds cubed lamb meat (3 lb. if there are lots of bones)
- 1 large red onion
- 4 tablespoons oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 - 1 teaspoon ground allspice (I used 4 whole allspice berries)
- 1 long strip of dried orange peel (or peel a fresh orange, trimming away all the pith and rind, then quarter it)
- 1 1/2 pound chestnuts
- 3 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 3-4 cups dry red wine
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- Salt and pepper to taste
If the meat has a lot of fat on it, trim off most of it. Leave some on for flavor and texture, though.
Chop the onion and in a large pot (or tajine) sauté it in the oil.
When the onion is soft, add the meat and cook it until it’s browned, turning it over occasionally.
Add the dry spices; stir.
Add the orange peel or prepared fresh orange.
Pour in the wine and bring the whole dish to a simmer.
Cook the meat on a low flame for 2 hours or until fork-tender.
About 15 minutes before you’ll want to turn off the flame, add the chestnuts and lemon juice. Stir.
Scatter plenty of chopped parsley over the dish before serving, not only to add a fresh, herbal taste, but also to make the dish more attractive.
Rice or couscous are classic foils to this stew, as indeed to any.
Adapted from the 'Book of Jewish Food' by Claudia Roden.