While I can't claim complete ownership of this wonderful greek classic, the few easy twists and changes I made to the original recipe I found have made this one of my show-stopping yet brilliantly simple recipes to pull out a few hours before guests arrive.
Orzo, while readily available in most supermarkets, is a relatively unknown ingredient. It is a short cut pasta, shaped like a grain of rice. It's ideal for use in soups, salads, pilafs and casseroles like below.
1kg lamb (I used leg which I then diced myself and marinated, neck fillets or shoulder work great too. You should avoid loin cuts as these have much less fat and will become dry when slow-cooked)
1 spanish onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped finely, or 1 teaspoon dried
1 tablespoon flat parsley, chopped finely, or 1 teaspoon dried
½ teaspoon ground all spice
½ teaspoon ground cumin
2 cinnamon sticks , or ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ a lemon, juiced
400g can of chopped tomatoes
2 tablespoon tomato purée
250ml dry white wine (dry white wines are less sweet than others. Try to find Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio)
300ml (or two cans full) chicken or vegetable stock
40g Feta (to serve)
Preheat the oven, 150C. Heat a glug of oil (unless you have chosen to marinate the meat before) in a large frying pan until hot, then brown the lamb in separate batches over a medium until all browned. As each batch is done, transfer the meat to a large flameproof casserole using a slotted spoon so as to retain as much of the oil as possible in the frying pan.
Once the meat is browned, add the onion to the pan. Fry the onion until it is golden brown (2-3 minutes should do). Then add the garlic, herbs and spices and fry for a further two minutes. Add this onion mixture to the browned lamb in the pot.
Add the canned tomatoes to the pot, then twice fill the can twice with leftover vegetable/chicken stock or boiling and add to the casserole. Add the tomato purée, wine, lemon juice, salt, and pepper to taste. Bring the mix to the boil, continually stirring, then cover with a lid or tinfoil and place it in the preheated the oven. Cook for 1hr30.
Stir in the orzo, cover the dish again and leave to absorb the liquid for 20 minutes. The orzo should look more plump and feel tender. To serve, plump the mixture with a fork and add the crumbled feta and a handful of fresh herbs (I used mint and thyme) if you have any.
Although it is perfectly filling on it's own, as it was a celebratory meal, I served this dish with a classic greek salad, homemade dips including tzatziki, hummus and taramasalata and lemon and rosemary roasted potatoes. Let me know what you think!