Braised Lamb, Aubergine, Orzo & Feta
inspired by Little Duck, The Picklery
As much as we are all adapting to a new normal, it really is nice to be able to get back to some old routines. After nearly four months of eating and drinking at home, it feels great to be venturing out again.
It took a bit of getting used to. Our first visit to the local pub last weekend felt a bit overwhelming. The sounds of so many other people, the staff and customers all a bit nervous, everyone trying to get the hang of the one way systems, the screens and the hand sanitiser.
But a week later and everything feels a lot more like normal. Not to say the pub isn’t still following all the safety measures. They’re still doing an amazing job making us as safe as possible. But by now we, the customers, have got the hang of how it all works, so we can all relax.
So now that a few drinks in the local are back on the cards for a Sunday afternoon that means I’m going back to old cooking routines too.
My favourite way to spend a Sunday is to cook something in the afternoon, then go to the pub for an hour or two, and then head home to finish dinner.
However this type of day calls for a certain type of dish. Something you can make in advance, and then quickly reheat or finish once you get home.
After months of cooking and then immediately eating my dinners, I’m out of practice. I consider just getting some bolognese out of the freezer to defrost….
But then I see a dish from Little Duck The Picklery. Or is it just The Picklery? Or Little Duck? To be honest I’m not sure. I’ve never eating at this restaurant in Dalston so I’m not entirely sure why they seem to have two names. Their sister restaurants Ducksoup, in Soho, actually combines two words to make their name. And I guess both restaurants involve a duck, so that links them together.
They are called The Picklery for a much more obvious reason. The kitchen and wine bar specialise in making their own seasonal pickles, ferments and drinks that you can buy to take away. I love restaurants that also have a deli section. This is something we will see more and more of as restaurants diversify.
Not only have The Picklery expanded their take away offering during lockdown. But they are now reopen too! I’ll have to make a trip to Dalston to try some of their food for myself, but in the meantime they’ve provided the inspiration I need for my Sunday dinner.
“Braised Lamb, Aubergine, Orzo & Feta”
I’ve been looking for orzo for ages. None of the supermarkets near me stock it.
But the other day I happened across an amazing Italian Deli on Cross Street in Islington. I popped in for orzo and left with some amazing tomatoes and a bottle of Italian rosé as well.
It took all my willpower to resist clearing out the cheese counter too!
Lamb and orzo makes me think of holidays in Greece. Giouvetsi is a dish of oven baked beef or lamb cooked in a tomato sauce with orzo. I love the idea of adding aubergine too.
I read a few recipes. Most call for the meat to be cut into chunks. However as I have a small shoulder joint still on the bone I’m going to cook it all as one piece, and then shred the meat into the sauce after it’s cooked.
I start by searing the meat in a deep casserole dish. I remove the lamb, pour away most of the fat, and then fry an onion, lots of garlic and fresh oregano and a cinnamon stick. In with some tomato puree before adding tinned tomatoes and lamb stock. The meat goes back in and into a low oven. After an hour I turn the meat. After another hour I turn it again and add chunks of aubergine that I’ve salted and fried in a separate pan until brown. Half an hour more in the oven and it’s done.
I pull the meat away from the bone and add it back into the sauce. All that’s left to do when I get home later is add the orzo and let that cook.
I’m in two minds about how to do this. Most recipes add the orzo and then bake it in the oven. But since I’ve not followed a recipe I worry I will add too much pasta, or that it might dry out. Visions of me opening and closing the oven door every few minutes to check puts me off the idea. I’m going to finish cooking it on the hob.
Which works absolutely fine. You just need to keep stirring to stop orzo sticking to the bottom of the pan. But it’s much easier to see how the pasta is cooking, and add more water as and when you need to.
The downside however, is that all that stirring means that the incredibly soft meat breaks up more and more. By the time dinner is served there aren’t many big chunks of meat left. It’s more of a pulled lamb risotto. Or orzotto, I should say.
Crumbled feta and more chopped oregano (plus a bit of parsley, why not?) go on top and we tuck in.
It’s absolutely incredible! This is such a delicious dinner, and so so simple. The great thing is this recipe can be adapted to fit whatever you like. I’m definitely going to try this with beef shin next time. I could also switch out aubergine for other vegetables, or finish it with parmesan to give it a more Italian feel.
Either way I know it’s dishes like this that I will come back to time and time again. Because nothing can beat a comforting bowl of pasta after a trip to the pub.
I’m enjoying getting back to normal. Even if just for a few hours on a Sunday afternoon.
Braised Lamb, Orzo, Aubergine & Feta
- 1 kg shoulder of lamb, ideally with the bone
- olive oil
- 1 onion
- 5 cloves garlic
- 1 cinammon stick
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh oregano
- 1 tbsp tomato puree
- 1 tin plum tomatoes
- 600 ml lamb stock
- 1 large aubergine
- 250 g orzo
- 100 g feta
- 2 tbsp fresh herbs to garnish (parsley, oregano, basil etc)
- Preheat the oven to fan 150°C
- Season the lamb all over with salt and pepper. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a large casserole dish and brown the lamb on all sides. Remove the meat and pour away the excess fat.
- Roughly chop the onion and peel the garlic cloves. Put the dish back on the heat and fry the onion and garlic for about 10 minutes. Add the cinnamon stick, chopped oregano and tomato puree. Tip a little of the lamb stock into the pan and scrape the bottom with a spoon to deglaze. Add the remaining lamb stock and plum tomatoes. Put the lamb in the dish. The sauce should come at least half way up the meat.
- Put the lamb in the oven. After one hour turn the lamb over and let it cook for another hour.
- Meanwhile cut the aubergine into large chunks and sprinkle generously with salt. Allow to sit for at least half an hour before patting dry with kitchen paper. Heat some more olive oil in a frying pan and brown the aubergines on all sides.
- Once the lamb has had two hours scatter the aubergines around the meat and put back in the oven for 30 minutes. Then remove the lamb and shred the meat. Put the meat back in the sauce. You can make this in advance and then add the orzo when you are ready to cook.
- Put the meat sauce on a medium heat on the hob. Add the orzo and a splash of water and let it cook for about 20 minutes. You need to stir the pan often to stop the orzo sticking and add more water if you think it needs it. Once the orzo is soft simply dish up and top with crumbled feta and chopped herbs.