Lamb Ragu

What a cold and damp day. In fact, it’s looking like a cold and damp spell so I thought a warming supper would be a good choice for today. This is in fact an old favourite of ours from when Boy O was allergic to all things dairy – even the cow, and he couldn’t eat bolognaise, so I needed to find alternative sources of iron for him.

Lamb isn’t a meat I’d instantly associate with toddlers and Little People, however this seems to get devoured by every child we know. Even Boy A who might as well be vegetarian, in fact would be if I could get him to eat enough veg. It’s a great dish for weekend lunches with friends as everyone can eat the same thing all together, and I’m a big fan of that.

You don’t need much for this and it makes a big vat of ragu – enough for a couple of families to share over lunch, or to fill a shelf in the freezer. As usual for me this can also be re-purposed into many different guises. My favourite way to serve it is simply with pasta – small shells for the children, extra large ones for the grown-ups. Lots of grated cheddar or crumbled feta and some chunks of fresh crusty bread. Yum, I could eat it now and it’s only 11am.

You’ll need a half leg of lamb (bone in), olive oil, an onion finely chopped, 200ml stock (water will also work just fine, as would red, or surprise – white wine if feeding grown-ups), four tins of chopped tomatoes,  three tbsp balsamic vinegar, a few bay leaves and a small bunch of fresh rosemary very finely chopped.

Begin by heating a large glug of olive oil in a large heavy based saucepan. Add the meat and cook for a few minutes on each side – try to gently brown as much of the meat as possible (lots of people think this step is unnecessary, so entirely up to you whether you do it or not – I often skip it if I’m short for time and it doesn’t seem to make any difference either way). Add the rest of the ingredients (although if using wine add this first and cook off the alcohol for 10 minutes before adding everything else) and give it a big stir.

It needs to cook for three hours (or thereabouts) and just needs regular stirring and turning of the joint. You can either leave it on the stove or place it in a pre-heated (160º) oven – up to you.

It is ready when the meat falls off the bone when prodded with a fork. Take it out of the oven / off the stove and carefully remove the bone along with any remaining fat / gristle. Flake the meat and stir it into the sauce. For Little People I like to flake the meat into small pieces, whereas for grown-ups I like to leave the meat in fairly big melt-in-the mouth chunks. But this can be done at the table / on the plate. For the grown-ups you’ll want to season it generously on the plate too.

We love this especially with pasta, however it is also delicious served with rice, in wraps with cheese and grilled to make quesadillas, inside pitta bread or wraps with salad and crème fraiche, with mashed potato and vegetables or made into a pie with a mash or pastry top. Or even just inside a warm baguette with lashings of butter…mmmm.

NB/ Apologies for the rather abstract photo today.

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