Greek Stew with Lamb & Orzo

This is a rather fabulous cross between a stew and a pasta dish, with tender lamb, rich tomatoes and aubergines, and salty black olives, all bound up in a thick sauce with plenty of plump orzo grains. If you haven’t cooked with orzo before, then you’re missing out – it’s a form of pasta, but shaped like large grains of rice, and when cooked it has a gorgeously soft and slippery texture.

Ingredients

1 onion
2 garlic cloves
1 medium-sized aubergine
300g diced lamb
A small glass of red wine
1 tin of plum tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato puree
A large handful of black olives
Sugar
Salt
Black pepper
Oregano
280g orzo
Grated cheddar, to serve

Serves 4

Start by peeling and dicing the onion and garlic, and soften them in some olive oil over a medium heat. Keep stirring every now and then to stop the onions crisping up. In the meantime, finely chop the aubergine (don’t worry about taking the skin off) and then add to the pan with another slug of olive oil – aubergine absorbs a lot of liquid so this will stop the pan drying out. Add a generous sprinkle of oregano and stir through.

I’d recommend having a little look at the lamb before you put it in, and cutting it down if the pieces are too big – you want bite-sized chunks. Once the aubergine has softened, add the meat and brown for a couple of minutes – no longer, because you don’t want it to toughen up. Next, turn up the heat a bit and add the red wine – there should be a hiss and a sizzle. Stir for a minute or two, until the wine has reduced a bit, and then add the plum tomatoes, olives, and tomato puree, and a generous pinch each of salt, black pepper and sugar (the sugar is to take the sourness off the tomato puree). Turn the heat down and put the lid on, and leave the stew to bubble gently for at least an hour.

When you’re getting ready to serve, cook the orzo according to the instructions on the packet, and then drain well and stir through the sauce. Have a taste to check whether any more seasoning is needed, and then serve up with a bit of cheese on top and a glass of red wine.