This is a classic Sunday lunch kind of dish. It’s a low and slow cooked kind of food that gets me salivating just thinking about it. Stews always bring the comfort factor. They bring warm thoughts and feels to your mind, heart and belly cause the meat is usually so tender and mouthwatering and anything cooked in its juices is so flavourful and tastes a million times better in a stew than on their own – veggies, pasta, potatoes or whatever else thats added to that slow cooked meat.
It’s funny as a kid I wasn’t a fan of this dish. I use to smell it cooking in the kitchen and think “not this again”. I have narrowed down why. I always loved the orzo or small grain pasta in it and the sauciness of it but I realised as a kid I was not a huge fan of red meat. Give me chicken galore but meat and stewed chunks of meat – no way was I having it. The other dish my mom would make stewed was beef and green string beans and potatoes and I also had an aversion to that as well because of the beef in it. Amazing how are palates change. Mine hasn’t changed too much though. Although my mouth waters at the thought of a steak grilling, tender fall of the bone lamb or slow cooked beef barbacoa – I am not a meat mouth. I will eat and enjoy it in very small doses. So I guess I haven’t strayed too far from my youthful palate in that regard.
Let’s get down the the important details of this dish. Is it time consuming and a bit of pain too because you have to use two or three pans to make it? Yes! Is it worth it? Absolutely! Do you have to use lamb? No! You can use beef or even chicken. The stewing time will be reduced a little if you’re making it with chicken. But it’s wonderful with all those meats. I hadn’t had it with lamb in a long while so I was craving it and wanted it with lamb this go around.
Just a little information about orzo. It can be used in pilafs, added to soups, tossed with vegetables, used in pasta salads, and as the basis for side dishes in place of rice or grains. The orzo is wonderful in this dish and I would not replace it with rice. If you have Gluten problems/intolerances and can’t find GF orzo which to tell you the truth I have never seen, then feel free to use GF short pasta or the type pasta you would put in a soup.
The sauce from the stew is full of so much flavour and the orzo cooks in that sauce and soaks all the juices from it and the meat. There’s a step in the recipe that calls for pan frying or toasting the orzo before putting it in the pot. This not only adds a little colour to it but adds a nice nutty flavour as well and I personally find it becomes less sticky and the end result of it texturally is much better. It cooks without becoming mushy or clumping together as it can when it’s over cooked. It’s worth the extra step and the use of an extra pan.
There you have it folks. A gorgeous stew to add to your stew repertoire! Right after shooting these pictures I was all spoons into the casserole dish – no plating required because I was dying to dig into it the moment it came out of the oven. I think you definitely will feel the same way about it too. Make sure to share and do have it will some crumbly feta and an extra drizzle of olive oil before serving!
- 500 grams of lamb cut up into cubes – bone in or boneless, cleaned and seasoned with salt and pepper
- 2 tbsp olive oil plus 4 more
- 2 onions chopped
- 2 carrots peeled and chopped
- 2 stalks celery chopped
- 3 cloves garlic
- ¼ cup chives – white and light parts chopped
- 2 tsp thyme
- 2 tsp oregano
- ½ tsp cumin
- 1 can chopped tomatoes
- 3 tbsp tomato paste
- Pinch of sugar (optional)
- ½ cup of red wine (optional)
- 1 cup broth or water plus 2½ cups extra
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 2 bay leaves
- 1¼ to 1½ cups of orzo
- Salt and pepper to taste
In a Dutch oven or heavy bottom pot heat oil to medium and add and sauté the onions, chives, celery, carrots, and the garlic for 5-7 minutes until soft and edges start to get golden
While they are sautéing, heat up a medium sized pan over medium/high heat with 2 tbsp olive oil and brown the meat on each side - should only take approx 5-7 minutes because you are just browning not cooking the meat through.
Once the meat is brown add the tomato paste and sauté for a minute or so and then deglaze the pan by adding the wine and continue to cook a few more minutes until wine has reduced a little
Carefully transfer the meat to the veggies and add the chopped tomatoes, the pinch of sugar, cinnamon, bay leaves, and 1 cup of broth. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer, cover and simmer for 1hr to 1 ½ hours until meat is tender and sauce has reduced. Stir occasionally and add more broth or water if needed. Remove lid for the last 15-20 to reduce further if it’s too watery.
Preheat oven to 350 ° F at this point
Heat a small pan to medium high and heat up 2 tbsp olive oil and add the orzo sauté for a few minutes until golden and translucent
Pour the orzo into the lamb sauce, add the rest of the broth, season with salt and pepper and stir well to combine. Remove the bay leaves and cinnamon cover with lid or if your transferring everything into a casserole dish then cover it tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes then remove lid or foil and bake for another 10-15 minutes until the it bubbling and golden.
Some steps adapted from Akis Petrizekis