A Greek Lamb and Aubergine Casserole:
When I was a student, lamb was still a relatively cheap cut of meat to buy. And, I had a part Greek boyfriend who insisted I should cook for him. Some of my efforts really were labours of love…fried eggs with fried onions in olive oil for breakfast (I hate eggs, particularly fried ones). As it happens, I liked lamb though, so had no problem making moussaka or lamb skewers to grill. We spent one happy summer in his family’s summer apartment, a few miles down the coast from Athens. Every day new dishes arrived as if by magic when we were on the beach, brought into the flat by his aunts, nieces, second cousins…in fact anyone who could claim some kind of a bloodline connection. Stuffed peppers, stuffed aubergines, stuffed tomatoes, lamb casseroles and meatballs. Everything tasted fabulous and nothing was the same when I tried to recreate it at home in the UK till I started to use fresh herbs.
This particular dish started as my attempt to recreate a lamb casserole with aubergine and fresh tomato that we were given. Then, I found a Greek Lamb Casserole recipe that involved adding feta and mint at the end…and really rather liked the salty minty addition. This mixture of Lamb and Aubergine makes a very comforting basic dish that you can serve with potatoes and thyme or parsley and without the mint and feta, or use the version I’ve done here and serve with crusty bread or pasta of some sort. It’s also nice made with fresh oregano. Right now, I have an inkling that you could make a rather special vegetarian dish with the basic vegetable and cheese mix using the Aubergine to provide the meaty flesh. The flavours are THAT pronounced.
- 400 g Lamb leg or neck is fine for this, cut into 1-2cm chunks
- 1 Aubergine chopped into 2cm chunks
- 1 Small Onion finely chopped
- 1 Chilli seeds removed but left whole
- 1 tablespoon Olives Ideallly kalamata, you can leave whole or de-stone and chop
- 3 cloves Garlic chopped finely or crushed
- 1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon or one piece of cinnamon stick
- 1 tin Chopped tomatoes
- 50 g Feta crumbled
- 1-2 sprig Fresh Rosemary
- 1 handful Fresh Mint torn up
- 1-2 tablespoon Olive oil
- 400 ml Red or White Wine
Brown the lamb in olive oil in batches so that all the meat is coloured and starting to brown a little at the edges. It's important to do this in batches so that you don't stew the lamb
Fry the onion and garlic in the fat till soft and browning at the edges
Finally fry the aubergine chunks to seal all sides
Put the lamb, onion, garlic, aubergine, olives, tinned tomatoes, wine, rosemary, chilli and cinnamon into a large casserole and bring to the boil on the top of the stove
Once the mix is simmering gently transfer to an oven at 140-150c and cook for at least 1hour 30 minutes, stirring and adding more water as necessary
Once cooked, check the mix for 'heat' and remove the chilli and cinnamon stick if used. Add pepper if necessary. Do NOT add salt at this stage because the feta is quite salty.
Plate up and add crumbled feta and mint to taste. I've served this with tagliatelli, but it works very well just with a big chunk of crusty bread.
This is a comfort food dish that will also work well in summer. If you do serve this Greek Lamb and Aubergine Casserole in summer, then it is best warm rather than piping hot.
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