Something about long grey rainy evenings is most conducive to playing board games. Whether propped up on cushions in front of a fire with the board set up on the floor to play Cluedo or sitting bolt upright, full of concentration around the dining table for more serious strategy games with several players, playing games is my second favourite way to while away any day that is too miserable for outdoor activities. My most favourite involves a couch, blanket and many dvd’s.
There isn’t much you can do to improve on an afternoon spent drinking wine and plotting the downfall of your friends but popping a slow cooking casserole in the oven so that your house starts to smell distractingly good about an hour in to game play is a definite plus. Add to that the fact that slow cooked meat is so tender that you can eat dinner with a fork in one hand while still holding your cards in the other and you have a recipe for a great evening.
One of my favourite slow cooked meals is the Cypriot Baked Lamb from Tessa Kiros absolutely gorgeous book Falling Cloudberries. This has so few ingredients but everything comes together to create a deeply fragrant and satisfying dish and the bonus is that it is natuaraly gluten free
2 lbs of lamb, I used gigot chops cut in to large pieces
2 Lbs of russet potatoes, peeled and cut in to thick slices
2 red onions, peeled and cut in to wedges
5 large ripe tomatoes cut in to thick slices
4 tablespoons of finely chopped parsley
3 heaped teaspoons of cumin seeds
¼ cup of olive oil
50 grams of butter, cubed
¼ cup of water
Salt and pepper
Preheat your oven to 180/ Gas 4/ 350
- Take a deep sided casserole dish or roasting tin and brush it with olive oil, this will make cleaning a bit easier. If your dish is too wide and shallow the liquid in the casserole may evaporate which might cause the ingredients to scorch. If you are worried this might happen you can check throughout the cooking time and add more water if necessary, tilting the dish to make sure the cooking liquid is evenly distributed.
- Place the potatoes, lamb, onions, parsley and cumin seeds in the dish. I add any bones that may have been in the chops for a bit of extra flavour, you an remove these before serving.
- Pour over the olive oil, season with salt and pepper and use your hands to mix the ingredients. Spread everything out to cover the base of the dish.
- Layer the tomatoes over the other ingredients and then dot the butter over everything.
- Pour the 1.4 cup of water around the edges of the dish and cover the top tightly with tinfoil.
- Place in the4 preheated oven for one and a half to two hours, checking every now and then to make sure the liquid hasn’t completely evaporated, is necessary add a bit more water.
- When the lamb is tender enough to be cut with a fork and the potatoes are cooked through, remove the tin foil and raise the oven temperature to 200 / Gas 6 / 400. Cook for twenty to thirty minutes until the edges of the potatoes start to crisp and turn a lovely golden brown and the cooking liquid has evaporated to leave a fairly dry but still succulent casserole.
This dish, fragrant with cumin and with the concentrated flavour of slow roast tomatoes is delicious served with a wedge of lemon which just brightens up the lamb and maybe if it is a particularly miserable day some good bread.