Friday, April 27, 2007

Arni Youvetsi

Another package arrives from mum-in-law. What could it be? There is no regularity to when these gifts arrive or what they are…it depends on the ebb and flow of her impulses and what she comes across while shopping, so it is always a surprise. At any given day, the doorbell will buzz, her driver will pop in with a parcel, and C and I will crowd around it and inspect our loot. As I peel off the wrappings, my Iron Chef face comes on (at least in my head): “Hmmm, it’s cold, hmmm, meat, hmmm, and the surprise ingredient is…lamb shank!

Wait. Did I say lamb shank? Only one of my most favorite kinds of meat around! I rubbed my hands together in glee. I already knew what it was fated to become. What better use for a favorite meat, than a favorite dish? A favorite Greek dish to be exact. Arni Youvetsi to be even more exact.

Arni Youvetsi, or lamb youvetsi, or giovetsi, is lamb baked with orzo (rice shaped pasta, like risoni) and tomato sauce. I fell madly in love with it in a Greek restaurant here, and when I finally made it to Greece, I wasted no time in eating my way through all the youvetsi’s they had to offer.

The recipe I used is adapted from Tessa Kiros’ Falling Cloudberries (I book that I adore). I changed the quantities a bit to suit our tastes (more garlic!) and the ingredients I had. Her recipe calls for lamb meat with no bone, but as the shanks looked like cute mini-osso buco’s, I wanted to include the whole thing.

Arni Youvetsi
(adapted from Falling Cloudberries by Tessa Kiros)

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 750 grams lamb shank (not whole, cut crosswise as beef and veal shanks are)
  • 2 red onions, chopped
  • 4-5 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 400-gram tin of chopped tomatoes with juice
  • 1 400-gram tin of whole tomatoes, drained, juice reserved
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 40 grams butter
  • 500 grams orzo
  • 150-200 grams feta cheese
  • Freshly grated parmesan, to serve

- Heat olive oil in a heavy, oven-proof casserole and brown lamb on all sides. Remove meat and set aside.
- Add onions to the same casserole and sauté until soft, adding a little more oil if necessary.
- Add the garlic and sauté for a couple of minutes more, then return lamb to the pan.
- Add the tomatoes (crushed and whole). Stir and mash the whole tomatoes roughly with the back of your spoon. Salt and pepper to taste.
- Add the cinnamon stick and the butter, give it a stir, and then let it simmer for about 5 minutes.
- While your pot is simmering, take the reserved juice from the tomatoes, stick it in a measuring jug, and top up with water until you have 4 cups (1 liter). Heat the liquid first (I did this in a microwave) and then add to your pot.
- Cover and bake in an 180C/350F oven until lamb is tender.
- Rinse pasta in a sieve or colander and drain. Add to the pot once lamb is tender and stir through until well incorporated. Cover pot and return to oven for about 15-17 minutes, or until the pasta is cooked and has absorbed most of the sauce. You can add more hot water if it seems too dry. (pasta cooks longer in the oven, so a pasta that usually takes 7 minutes will take about 15 in the oven)
- Once done, remove from the oven and stir in crumbled feta while it’s still hot, so the cheese melts a bit. (this part is optional but I like it)
- Serve with freshly grated parmesan.

Just as it sounds and appears, this is no glamorous, sophisticated dish. It is hearty and comforting. A very Sunday-family-meal type of dish that you can imagine some robust Greek yaya (or yiayia – grandmother in Greek) making. This is not a summer sort of dish either. The fact that I made it in this blazing heat is a testament to how much I love it.

It seems like in the summertime, this not-so-young girl's mind turns to thoughts of...Greece...I promise to buy my brain a plane ticket to somewhere else soon...


Anh said...

*Drool* This is the type of recipe that i love. :D Cooking meat on the bone brings out a lot of good flavours.

PS: I like Tessa Kiros's books. Very pretty!

Pille said...

This is so unfair - I've got such a long backlog of recipes to cook and dishes to try (incl 'typical' Estonian birthday dishes to please my nephews tomorrow), yet you keep tempting me with various Greek dishes!!!
Tessa Kiros' book is fab. No cloudberry recipes inside, however, but still gorgeous:)

Katrina said...

This is also Felipe's favorite dish at Mati. He's a huge lamb fan. Like he is with pumpkin soup, he can't see lamb on the menu and not order it. The fact that he loves this dish despite it having orzo (you know, carbs) is proof of how irresistible lamb is for him.

Brilynn said...

I have that book and have definitely not made enough use of it, this sounds delicious!

Franco said...

No, Joey. Don't let your brain move on yet

We like Greek food just fine. More please. :)

the philosphical bastard said...


ChichaJo said...

Hi Anh! I agree...meat on the bone really imparts more flavor into dishes, especially the marrow in these shank bones!

Hi Pille! Hehe :) I also have a backlog of dishes to try (Dallaspulla!)...Tessa Kiros' books are wonderful I think...I've got Apples for Jam too and I think they are great books and not just cookbooks...I get all dreamy when I go through them :)

Hi Katrina! Hahaha! :) Tell Felipe we have a lot of fave dishes in common...I'm that way with pumpkin soup too!

Hi Brilynn! Her book has got lots of yummy sounding things...and is filled with nice little notes about her life and family throughout. I still have loads of recipes bookmarked there :)

Hi Franco! Haha! Definitely more in the future, but I think we will take a break for now :) Maybe move on to another place for a bit ;)

Thanks philosophical bastard! :)

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

I love Greek food and orzo! This dish looks wonderfully tasty...

Socky said...

Loving your greek food series! More, more!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

If your mind is happy in Greece, let it play a little longer there.
In England once I ordered "place" (forgotten the spelling now, it's fish) every night that I would find it on a menu. It was always wonderful and always different.
One night in Cancun, my husband & I went looking for a resturant and found ten. We went in each and ordered one beer and one bowl of tortillia soup to share and then moved onto the next one!
I like getting stuck on one thing sometimes.
Your lamb is beautiful!

Susan said...

This looks like a dish my husband gets at a Mediterranean restaurant we love. I'm a bit shy about cooking lamb, but you've inspired me, because he would love this recipe.

Melting Wok said...

Joey, wahh, you're one lucky gal to have such a wonderful m-i-l hehe :) salivating over those lamb shanks, sucking the center of the bone is the best, isn't it :)

Marketman said...

This looks like something I would absolutely love. May I ask where the lamb shanks are from??? Thanks! :)

Nini said...

This looks so delicious! I love Greek food. More, more!

ChichaJo said...

Hi Rosa! Thanks! :) Me too :)

Hi Socky! Hehe...thanks! I will always be trying my hand at one Greek recipe or another :)

Hi Tanna! I like the way you've put that :) And your Cancun ten-restaurant food trip with your husband sounds fantastic! Is the fish plaice? I have never had it though...maybe one day I'll come across it! :)

Hi Susan! Don't be shy with lamb...this dish is really easy...if I can cook it anyone can! :) And you are a great cook already!

Hi Melting Wok! You said it! I happen to be a champion at sucking the marrow out :) I was trained from childhood!

Hi Marketman! She got them from Unimart in Greenhills. I hardly ever venture there because it's far from where I'm at but I think I should make a trip out there one of these days!

Hi Nini! Thanks! :) And thanks for stopping by :)

christine said...

Ohhh I love lamb, in any form or fashion, and I love this dish. When you gonna make for me?! I'll take leftovers too. :)

ChichaJo said...

Hey Nens! I'm with you on loving lamb :) And I'll make this again for you anytime! :)

Mae said...

Joey, have i told you lately [i will not burst into a song, i promise!] that your photos are incredibly delicious?

This sounds like a fantastic meal.

Please keep posting drool-worthy photos! I'm putting on weight each time i browse..

ChichaJo said...

Hi Mae! Thank you! :) Trying my best! :) I love this dish...I felt like a Greek mama just making it :)

Claire said...

This looks phenomenal - it would be a great entry for the root source challenge...

ChichaJo said...

Hi Claire! Thanks :) The root source challenge sounds interesting...too bad I missed the deadline! Will keep an eye out for it though! :)