IN Spain, we have all become accustomed to eating pork. It always was a big favourite of mine, but it is starting to take its toll after ten years of Spanish restaurants and butchers. So, I have been eating more lamb of late.
Lamb was little available many years ago and it is still hard to get anything other than leg or chop. I normally like my lamb a little older than what is available here but spring lamb is something many look forward to as it goes well with spring greens.
Lamb, olive and spinach stew
This stew starts with a sofrito – a mixture of vegetables, which is the cornerstone of Mediterranean cookery.
One leg of lamb, boned and cut into chunks
One kilogram of spinach
Three onions, finely chopped
Two carrots, finely chopped
Two celery sticks, finely chopped
Two garlic cloves, finely chopped
One tin of plum tomatoes
Half a pint of vegetable stock
Flat leaf parsley, leaves and stalks
Two bay leaves
One glass of fino sherry
Rind and juice of two lemons
Salt and pepper
Put a glug of olive oil in a large, heavy pan and brown the lamb. Set aside, pour off half the fat, add a little more olive oil and sweat the onions, carrots, celery and garlic. Season and cook slowly for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the plum tomatoes, bay, lamb, chopped parsley stalks, fino and two thirds of the stock. Cover and simmer for an hour (if you have decided not to bone the lamb you may need to cook the meat longer) or until the lamb is tender. If you like, skim off any fat and add more stock if necessary. Add the olives, parsley leaves, lemon rind and spinach and cook for ten minutes more. Season, squeeze in the lemon juice and serve with your favourite accompaniment. I would go for some polenta or minted basmati rice, something to soak up the juices.I have been trying to find lamb shanks for a while. I love it when the meat is falling off the bone. It needs a good long cook to make this happen. The following recipe is another type of stew but this time with chickpeas. This is very Spanish but probably not the sort of thing many Spaniards would make.
Lamb shanks with garbanzos
Six lamb shanks
Two large onions, roughly chopped
Two celery sticks, roughly chopped
Two carrots, roughly chopped
Two cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
One bottle of white wine
One handful of fresh mint
One pinch each of saffron and cumin
Two jars of chickpeas
Salt and pepper
Heat a good glug of olive oil in a frying pan over a fierce heat and brown the lamb. Set the meat aside. Pour the oil into a large casserole and gently fry the onions, carrots, celery and garlic until softened. Add half the bottle of wine, mint, saffron and cumin and heat until bubbling. Add the lamb and coat it in the juices. Add a little water if needed to cover. Cover the casserole and simmer for two hours. The meat really wants to be thinking of falling off the bone. Add the chickpeas and a little more liquid if necessary. Cook until the lamb is tender and the chickpeas a little overcooked. Make sure the dish does not dry out, adding more liquid if necessary. Serve with a big handful of coriander on top and mop it up with bread and potatoes.
Lamb chops are the quick route to eating lamb. Here is a way to enjoy them with lovely new potatoes and zingy, minty juices to smash your spuds into.
Lamb chops with lemon and mint
Six or twelve lamb chops
One kilo of new potatoes
A sprig of mint
Salt and pepper
Put the potatoes into boiling, salted water and season the chops with salt and pepper on both sides. Finely grate the lemons and roughly pull apart the mint leaves and mix with a good couple of glugs of olive oil. When the potatoes are nearly done, heat a large frying pan and add the oil and lemon mixture. As it starts to sizzle, lay in your chops and let them colour for a few minutes. Now, turn them and cook for a few minutes on the other side, making sure the mint is not burning. The lamb should be golden brown here and there, rose pink within. Put the chops on your plates, drain the potatoes and plate them too. Squeeze the lemon into the hot frying pan and let it bubble for a few seconds, stirring all the time. Pour the scant juices over the chops and potatoes. A crisp, cold white Rueda would be excellent with this.