I first cooked this dish on a cold day and the smell of the lamb and thyme just enveloped the kitchen. The very essence of comfort food, it’s like a warm hug on a cold day. The key to this dish is in the slow cooking and using loads of thyme.
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1kg lamb shoulder, cut into 3cm cubes
- 2 onions, finely chopped
- 6 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
- 1 carrot, finely chopped
- 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
- 250ml Chianti wine
- 200g tin chopped Italian plum tomatoes
- ½ teaspoon dried chilli flakes
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon
- 125g best black olives, pitted
- Salt, black pepper
- Warm two tablespoons of the oil in a heavy pan (with a lid) over medium heat. When hot, add lamb and fry in batches until sealed and browned on all sides. Scoop lamb out of pan and set aside.
- Add the rest of the oil to the pan. When hot, stir in onions, garlic, carrot, and celery and cook until softened and turning lightly golden, about five minutes.
- Pour in wine and bring to the boil. Vigorously scrape up any crusty, caramelised juices from the bottom of the pan and let the wine boil hard for a minute or two, so that all the alcohol bubbles away.
- Stir in the tomatoes, then adjust the heat so that the liquid barely simmers. Return the lamb to the pan and sprinkle over the chilli and thyme. As soon as the braise starts to bubble, turn down the heat to low and let barely simmer on top of the stove or in a 150ºC/gas mark 2 oven until the lamb is meltingly tender, about 1.5 to two hours.
- Add the olives for the last 15 minutes of cooking. Add salt and pepper to taste, then serve hot on warmed plates with parsley mash, or celeriac and nutmeg timbales.
Tip: Diced lamb works fine for this recipe as it tends to be the shoulder anyway. Otherwise a leg will work but the cooking times may vary. This is also freezer-friendly.
Recipe credit: Eunice Power
Photography credit: Harry Weir