Georgie’s Big Greek Tava

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The population of Chicago is one of the most diverse in America, and has been ever since the 1840s — and of course this makes for magnificent variety in the food. Wander into Greektown for clever cooking that might look a little like this next dish. A winner from gorgeous Georgie and her Cypriot aunt, it’s a wonderful Greek lunch for a family gathering.

Ingredients

  • 150ml/5fl oz good olive oil
  • 2 large red onions, cut into wedges
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1kg/2lb 2oz lamb neck fillet, cut into chunks
  • 1kg/2lb 2oz Cyprus or other waxy potatoes, peeled and halved or cut into chunks
  • 1 bay leaf
  • A Small bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 tomatoes, halved
  • 100g/oz plain rice
  • 250ml/8fl oz hot stock or water

Method

Preheat your oven to 170°C/325°F/gas mark 3.

Heat a little of the olive oil in a frying pan, then add the onions, garlic and cumin seeds and cook for around 10 minutes, until the onion is softened. Spoon into a wide casserole or earthenware dish, preferably one with a lid — if you don’t have one of these, you can use a roasting tray and make a cover with foil. Add the lamb, potatoes, bay leaf and parsley, along with a few good glugs of olive oil. Season well with salt and pepper, and mix everything together, making sure there’s a roughly even distribution of the ingredients in the dish.

Next into the pot are the halved tomatoes. Pop them on the top, and season with salt. Add the rice, pour in the hot stock or water, and cover, tightly, with a lid or kitchen foil.

Place in the oven and cook for 2½ hours, checking occasionally, basting and adding more stock if need be. At the end of the cooking time, the lamb should be meltingly soft and the potatoes should be perfectly cooked. If not, return the dish to the oven for a further 10—20 minutes with the lid in place.

When the lamb and potatoes are cooked, turn the oven up to 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6. Remove the lid or foil, sprinkle everything liberally with olive oil, and cook uncovered for a further 30—40 minutes, until the tomatoes are caramelized and the potatoes are golden.

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