Monday, 23 June 2014

Italian Lamb and Pea Casserole

Italian Lamb and Pea Casserole

I have to confess; I first came across this recipe on an episode of BBC TV's "Saturday Kitchen" and I've changed it very little. It's great if you have many mouths to feed as it will easily feed 6. Last time I prepared it was at my parent's house in southern Spain for a dinner party. I went to the local market on a boiling hot day to get everything I needed. But I could not find chillis any where on any of the stalls. And to make matters worse I didn't know what the Spanish word for chilli was so I asked one stall holder who appeared to have every other type of spice known to man except chillis. "Pimienta" I said (which means pepper) and mimed that I had eaten something hot by fanning my mouth with my hand (just like a twat would!). Any way, it worked. The woman exclaimed "Ah!Chiles!" (so I felt even more like a twat!). She then walked into the house behind the stall, disappeared through a door and brought one from her own kitchen and refused to charge me.Such kindness. Actually, that is all assuming it was her house! This is great peasant food. Rustic, filling, simple but bounteous in flavour.


1kg of shoulder of lamb, off the bone and cut into 1 inch chunks (your butcher will do that for you. You will usually have to buy the whole shoulder. It does not really matter if it is exactly 1kg or not)
One 50g Tin of anchovy fillets in oil
2 sweet, white onions sliced
1 large carrot thinly sliced
2 celery stalks thinly sliced
5 garlic cloves, crushed under the blade of your knife and chopped
Handful of fresh thyme sprigs
250ml of white wine
20ml of white wine vinegar
250g of tiny little petit pois or generally small peas (frozen ones perfect)
400g of Pembrokeshire new potatoes (skin on) cut into quarters
200g cherry tomatoes cut in halves
1 red chilli cut into slices

You'll need olive oil and coarsely ground sea salt and black pepper
And buy a Tiger bloomer loaf (all the super markets do them these days) and cut into thick slices to make toast to eat with it (so it mops up the lovely sauce).

The cooking:

Start by putting your lamb chunks in a bowl. Really liberally season with coarsely ground black pepper and sea salt and leave to one side for about 10-15 minutes. While that is rendering you can crack on with all the slicing ('cos there's quite a lot with this one). Once you've got all your ingredients prepared, heat about 80ml of really good, extra virgin olive oil in a large, heavy pan.

First, fry your sliced onions, carrot and celery on a medium heat (not too hot as olive oil tends to burn at high temperatures and takes on an unpleasant smell and taste). After about 4 minutes, when it all golden, add you garlic, anchovies, chilli and thyme and continue to cook, stirring until the anchovies have completely dissolved. Add your lamb and maybe a splash more olive oil and fry it until it is browned on all sides.

Pour in your wine and cook it down until the volume has roughly halved, then add your vinegar, stir the whole lot in and then turn your heat down low to a simmer. Cover the pan and leave it bubbling for 20 minutes. Stirring occasionally.

Once your 20 minutes is up, pour in your potatoes and cover again, and cook for a further half an hour. Then you add your tomatoes and your peas and cook for another half an hour with the lid on. Stirring occasionally to keep it from sticking or catching.

For your last 10 minutes or so, cut your bread into slices and toast under a grill on both sides. 

This is a really good dish for a big family or a night when you have some friends around. I like to serve it by giving everybody a bowl, a glass of full bodied red wine and cutlery each, then plonk the casserole in the middle of the table with a ladle in it, and a plate next to it with a big pile of toast. Then just sit back and let every body get stuck in. Terrific!

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