Sicilian Lamb Casserole.

Being at the crossroads of the Mediterranean means that Sicily has produced some very interesting recipes over the years, but always seems to give them a very local twist. The inclusion of Marsala, a fortified wine produced in the town [the ancient Lilybaeum] of that name, gives this casserole/stew an especially unique flavour. Marsala, however, comes in a number of varieties, so you may have to do some tasting before you decide on the one to use.

Ingredients.

A little oil for frying.

400g diced lamb.

1 large onion peeled and chopped.

100mm celery finely chopped.

3 cloves of garlic, crushed.

Salt.

½ cup Marsala[1].

Fresh chilli to taste.

6 juniper berries[2].

2 tablespoons tomato paste.

1 cup chicken stock.

Rosemary, finely chopped.

6 small potatoes, scrubbed, whole.

6 small onions, peeled, whole.

Method.

Heat the oil in a pan over a hot flame and brown the meat. Remove the meat from the pan and set aside. Add the onion, celery, garlic and salt to the pan. Sauté for five minutes then add the marsala, chilli, tomato paste, stock and rosemary. Stir well and bring to the boil.

Continue to cook uncovered for ten minutes until reduced, then whizz the mixture to a pulp with a kitchen wand. Add the meat and the juniper berries [or the bay leaf]. Bring back to the boil, reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook gently for 1 ½ hours, stirring occasionally.

At this stage, if you are making a large amount to freeze [it freezes very well], pour the stew into pottles and pack down in the freezer. If you are making some for immediate consumption, place the potatoes and the baby onions in the stew, add enough water to ensure that the potatoes are covered, bring the heat up to boiling again, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for a further 30 – 40 minutes. Serve with stir fried vegetables and fresh crusty bread on the side.

If you are thawing some out, heat a little oil in a pan and stir fry the onions until they are seared on 2-3 points. Place the scrubbed potatoes and onions in a small pot, pour the meat mixture over them and add just enough water to cover the potatoes if needed. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 30 – 40 minutes. Serve as above.

Serves: 2.


[1] If no Marsala is available, Port will do quite nicely instead.

[2] Juniper berries are generally added to give a slightly sharp, almost citric, back taste which compliments the lamb beautifully. Unfortunately they are not in common supply in New Zealand, although they can be obtained dry from Piko Wholefoods http://www.pikowholefoods.co.nz/. Otherwise, bay leaves are a reasonably good substitute.

***

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