This lamb dish is slow-cooked in Mediterranean spices. (Photo: Miriam Kresh/Unpacked)

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.

Lamb with chestnuts

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Prep15 mins
Cook Time1 hr 30 mins
Yield6

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs cubed lamb meat (3 lb. if there are lots of bones)
  • 1 large red onion
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½-1 tsp 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 ½ lb chestnuts
  • 3 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 3-4 cups dry red wine
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • 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 additions to this stew, as indeed to any.

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