Greek-Style Roast Lamb with Macaroni

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The Greeks are masters of lamb. And one of my favourite lunches of the year is at Greek Easter. I go to my friend Noli’s house (well, his parents’, anyway), and they roast a whole lamb on the spit as well as making an epic tripe soup. This recipe is more practical than the first, and less polarising than the second. It has a subtle spicing and real depth. If you can’t find long Greek macaroni, look for the Italian equivalent. Or even normal macaroni if desperate, although the aesthetic effect is somewhat lost.

Ingredients

  • 1 kg/2 lb 2 oz lamb shoulder, cut into 4, with the bone left in (ask your butcher to chop the lamb)
  • 1 small lemon, halved
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon plain flour, seasoned
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 kg/2 lb 2 oz tomatoes or canned tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 250 ml/9 fl oz dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons tomato purée
  • 3 cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken

For the Macaroni

  • 900 ml/ pints full-fat milk
  • 150 g/ oz butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 75 g/ oz plain flour
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 450 g/1 lb long Greek macaroni
  • 3 egg whites
  • 125 g/ oz kefalotyri or pecorino cheese, grated
  • 50 g/ oz breadcrumbs, toasted

Method

Preheat the oven to 150°C/300°F/Gas 2. Rub the lamb with the lemon, squeezing over the juice and reserving the rinds, and season. Cover and put in the fridge to marinate for 15–20 minutes. Dice the lemon rinds and set aside. Dust the lamb with seasoned flour. Heat the olive oil in a heavy roasting tin over a medium–high heat, add the lamb and brown it all over. Add the tomatoes and cook until bubbling.

Mix the wine with the tomato purée and add to the lamb, followed by the cloves, cinnamon and diced lemon rind. Pour in enough water (about 150 ml/5 fl oz) to cover the meat. Loosely cover the pan with foil and bake in the oven for 2½–3 hours, until the meat is falling off the bone.

After 1½–2 hours cooking, make the sauce for the macaroni. Warm the milk in a saucepan. In a separate saucepan, melt 75 g/ oz butter over a low heat until foaming. Add the flour a little at a time, whisking, until smooth. Remove from the heat.

Slowly add the warm milk, whisking continuously to prevent lumps forming. Place the sauce back over a low heat and cook for 3–4 minutes, stirring often, until it has thickened to the consistency of cream.

Remove the sauce from the heat and season. Lightly whisk the egg yolk and beat it into the sauce. Set aside.

Lightly butter a large, shallow baking dish. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and cook the macaroni for half the time recommended on the packet. Drain and lay it out on a tray.

Melt the remaining butter in a small saucepan. In a bowl, whisk the egg whites until fluffy. Stir in half the melted butter, then pour this mixture over the macaroni, turning to coat evenly.

Put a thin layer of sauce in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with a little cheese, then add a layer of macaroni. Sprinkle with more cheese, and a little more sauce and another layer of macaroni. Repeat until all the macaroni and sauce have been used. Sprinkle over the remaining cheese, then sprinkle over the breadcrumbs and top with the rest of the melted butter.

Thirty minutes before the lamb is ready, turn up the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6. Remove the foil from the lamb to brown the meat and reduce the juices in the pan to a rich, sticky sauce. Bake the macaroni on the top shelf of the oven for 30 minutes, or until golden brown and crisp on top. Serve alongside the lamb.

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