Lamb Ragu

No, I don’t intend to become a food writer. I love cooking. It’s winter here. I told Lorraine I was cooking this meal the other day and she asked for the recipe.  The day after eating this I broke into a run three times on the short walk to the shop, had to keep telling myself to calm down… Man! it felt good to have lots of energy for a change.

For this one I used hormone free, free range, grass fed lamb because that is what was available – I laughed a lot at the labelling… what will they think of next? Apples grown on real trees, with unrestricted access to sun and water!

To serve with the ragu I made some potato gnocchi, but in the interests of a peaceful and relaxing life, I am not going to bother sharing that recipe. Not only did my kitchen look like a potato and flour bomb had been let off, but in my humble opinion, light and pillowy potato gnocchi are far from the perfect carriers for this robust sauce and the dried pasta seemed to work much better.  At least I am confident now that if push came to shove, in an emergency, I could make gnocchi, which is right up there on my list of unimportant considerations.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 kg lamb leg with bone, reduce the quantity for boneless, increase it for lamb shanks
  • olive oil
  • onion
  • carrot
  • celery stick
  • garlic (3-6 cloves)
  • chili/red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup red wine (or not)
  • 800 g canned italian tomatoes (or less tomatoes and a bit of tomato paste)
  • 1 – 2 cups chicken stock or water
  • bay leaf
  • fresh rosemary (or thyme)
  • fresh parsley
  • pecorino cheese (or parmesan)
  • Spaghetti, or other dried pasta shape that can stand up to a thick meaty braise without being too heavy.

Cooking time: including preparation allow approx 3.5 hours
Serves: lots of hungry people (at least 4)

METHOD

  1. You can cook this in the oven or on the stove top. If you plan to cook it in the oven, preheat to 300 degrees F/150 degrees C.
  2. Trim any extra fat from the lamb and cut into 6-7 large pieces. Dice the carrot, onion and celery, squash the garlic and roughly chop.
  3. Heat some olive oil in a frying pan or dutch oven or baking dish and brown a couple of pieces of lamb at a time until they are all done. When frying the lamb, try not to move it around in the pan too much – aiming for good caramelization on all sides without actually cooking it.
  4. Once the lamb is all browned, deglaze the pan with the wine and stir a little, then throw in the onions, carrot, celery, garlic and chili flakes and cook stirring occasionally until the onion is soft.
  5. Add the canned tomatoes and squish them up a bit to encourage disintegration, then a bay leaf or two and the chicken stock.
  6. Transfer the whole mixture along with the lamb into the baking dish (or whatever cooking vessel has been selected) and place a sprig of rosemary on top. Cover with foil (try not to let the foil touch the lamb). Cook for 3 hours in the oven or covered on the stovetop, simmering gently. Go check your FB or put your feet up for a while.
  7. Check the ragu for adequate liquid a couple of times during the cooking process – too much liquid is far better than not enough. I usually set a timer.
  8. The lamb will be fork-tender when ready. Remove the lamb pieces from the liquid and shred with two forks. Meanwhile place the remaining sauce on the stovetop to reduce if too watery. Cook the pasta.
  9. Return the shredded lamb to the sauce to heat through and adjust the seasonings (it should need salt).  Throw in some freshly chopped parsley, grated pecorino, mix it through and toss with the drained, cooked pasta.

Serve sprinkled with freshly grated pecorino.

Without the cheese and the pasta this will freeze ok or store for a few days in the refrigerator.

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