I have never been a fan of lamb, I must confess. Although very present in Portuguese cuisine, lamb was not a meat that my mum favoured, hence my slight apprehension towards it. I have only discovered the delights of this meat since I moved to England 12 years ago. I always found incredible the array of varied and edible parts of lamb you can find in any British butcher and the different recipes that feature every single one of them. So I have fallen for this delicious, tender and juicy meat and decided to go back once more to my roots and research a Portuguese dish that I think honours the lamb: “Chanfana”.
“Chanfana” is a dish which comes from the province of “Beira Litoral” and is basically a casserole of lamb or goat’s meat , that has been cooked in a traditional black clay pot in a wooden oven for at least 5 hours. The meat is soaked in good quality red wine, piri-piri, bay leaf, garlic cloves and some sort of fat (I use olive oil instead of lard). As you can imagine, after such a long cooking process, the meat will be very tender and flavoursome. In this recipe I have used the leg as it has the right amount of fat and bone and I have added some shallots and carrots as I love their textures once cooked in a casserole. I also serve it on top of two slices of toasted rye bread which soaks up nicely all the juices of the meat. And for dessert I give you a 16th century apple and sage jam, that you can serve with some oatcakes and strong cheese.
2 lamb legs
3 chopped shallots
2 tbsp of olive oil
2 garlic cloves
1 chopped chili
1 bay leaf
1 small bunch of fresh thyme
500 ml of good quality red wine
4 carrots cut in battons
Salt & pepper
2 slices of toasted rye bread
Pre-heat the oven at 100 ºC.
Put the chopped shallots, the garlic cloves with the olive oil in a casserole pan. Place the lamb legs on top, cover with the red wine and the chilli, bay leaf, bunch of thyme and the carrots. Season with salt & pepper.
Place the casserole inside the oven and let it slow cook for 5 hours. It will be ready when the meat falls off the bone and the carrots are very soft.
When ready, serve the leg with the juices on top of the toasted bread on a deep dish.
Apple & Sage jam
500g of chopped apples (deseeded but with skin)
450g of sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 small bunch of chopped sage
25ml of water
Place all ingredients in a pan in no specific order and cook on a medium heat for 45-50 minutes. With an electric blender, blend all ingredients together and let the jam cook for a further 10 minutes. Set aside and let it cool down.
Boil some empty jam jars and dry them out. Place the jam inside them.
Serve it on top of some oatcakes, if preferred with some strong cheese.