Elisabeth's Cordero Estofado en Salsa de Almendras
Pot-roast lamb with almonds
In this winter dish from La Mancha, shepherding territory, lamb steaks are braised with red wine, serrano ham and garlic in a tightly lidded earthenware casserole and finished with a thick paste of toasted almonds.
1.5k thick lamb steaks (shoulder or leg), chopped right across the bone
1 whole head garlic (about a dozen cloves)
150g shelled almonds, unskinned
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon diced serrano ham or short length ham-bone
1-2 sprigs thyme
short length cinnamon
Glass red wine
1 tablespoon pimenton (smoked, for preference)
Salt and pepper
Wipe over the lamb steaks and season with salt and pepper. Roughly crush the garlic-cloves to loosen the skins, but leave them whole and unskinned.
Preheat the oven to 325F/160C/Gas3.
Toast the almonds gently in a casserole with a teaspoon of oil; as soon as the skins loosen and nuts begin to brown, remove and reserve. Reheat the casserole with the remaining oil and fry the meat, turning to brown all sides. Add the ham and garlic cloves and fry for a couple of minutes. Add the herbs, wine, pimenton and just enough water to cover everything, and bubble up.
Transfer the casserole to the oven and leave to cook gently for at least an hour. Check now and again, adding a splash of boiling water if the juices look like drying out. When the meat is perfectly tender, remove and discard the bayleaves and cinnamon stick and any obvious garlic skins. Remove the meat to a warm serving dish.
Transfer a spoonful of the cooking juices to the liquidiser, add the reserved toasted almonds and process to a paste - or use a pestle and mortar. Stir the paste back into the cooking juices in the casserole, taste and adjust the seasoning, and bubble up again till thick.
Spoon the sauce over the lamb and finish, if you like, with an extra sprinkle of flaked toasted almonds. Serve with plain-cooked rice or thick-cut sourdough bread and nothing else. Vegetables are eaten as a separate course in Spain rather than heaped on the same plate.
Trustee Director of The Oxford Symposium on Food & Cookery
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