Greek Lamb Yiouvetsi for a dinner with family from far


Traditional Greek amb yiouvetsi or giouvetsi - a bake lamb and orzo dish

Husband's cousin is visiting London with his wife and three children from Dubai. He's the son of husband's so called Dirty Uncle, sadly now passed away, called so after his uncompromising sense of humour. I only met him once, but remember his naughty cackle after he'd said something completely un-PC. "What are we going to do with this one? Who's going to marry her?" he said pointing his cane at one of his small granddaughters clearly judging the poor girl a bit scrawny and awkward for the marriage market.

We invited them for dinner on Saturday. I have met them before but don't know how adventurous they are as eaters. I was originally thinking of barbecueing something, but then decided with these UAE-types, husband included, timing is such a stretchy concept that it wouldn't work. They generally have a very different idea of time from my anal unyielding Finnish viewpoint. (And I was right - they arrived more than an hour late.)

I asked husband what he thought I should cook and he suggested maybe nothing too exotic. So I thought that probably meant reindeer was out of the question. I didn't want to go down the middle-eastern route because that's what they always eat, but didn't want to go too crazy and I also wanted to make sure the children would like something. So I decided on a safe but always yammy Greek theme and decided to do both lamb and chicken to give options. 

I had a fun afternoon cooking while husband was lying on the couch recovering from our Friday night out in our favourite bar. I had cleverly and quite uncharacteristically moderated my drinking because I didn't want be a hungover booze smelling hostess for husband's family.

The cousin and his wife both spoke good English which is great because my Arabic is a bit limited. I started to study it some years ago, but soon realised it's a complete bitch of a language and gave up and now I can do the basic greetings and a few other phrases like What colour is your car, Do you have diaorhhea, Would you like some orange juice and My God, how many children do you have?

The food went down well and we had a nice evening. The kids were surprised to see me cooking and husband helping and wondered why we don't have servants. Other than than no cultural clashes to report on.

My menu for the evening was

Lamb Yiouvetsi (or Giouvetsi / Youvetsi)
Chicken and chickpea stew
Greek salad
Pitta bread
Fresh fruit salad with maple syrup and vanilla cream fraiche

Greek salad

Authentic Greek tzatziki

Lamb Yiouvetsi - Lamb and orzo one pot meal with cinnamon and herbs

1kg boneless lamb
Selection of fresh and/or dried herbs. You can be flexible and use what you like, I had:
    1 tbsp of fresh mint, rosemary and parsley each
    2 tsp of dried greek herb mix
2-3 cloves of garlic
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 large yellow onion
400g can of tomatoes
2 cinnamon sticks
400g orzo
2 cups beef or lamb stock

For garnish (optional)
Fresh mint or parsley

A lot of the recipes just start by frying the lamb cubes and adding the herbs and spices then, but I rubbed the spiced in the lamb a little ahead of time and let the meat sit in the fridge for a few hours. Up to you how you want to do it.

Cut the lam into one inch cubes. Chop the fresh herbs and garlic. Mix the lamb cubes with the herbs, garlic, salt, pepper, red wine vinegar (which I left out to make sure it was all halal) and a dash of extra virgin olive oil. Mix well and leave to marinade in the fridge for a few hours or overnight.

Bring the lamb into room temperature before starting to cook. Heat oil in a large dutch oven and fry the meat in batches until browned on all sides. Remove to a plate.

Chop the onion and blitz the canned tomatoes in a food processor until almost smooth. After you have browned all the lamb add more oil in the pan if necessary and fry the onion on low heat until it has softened. Add the meat back to the pan. Add the tomatoes, cinnamon sticks and the stock. Cook on low heat on the stove top or in oven (around 180C) until the meat is tender. Depending on the cut of meat and the size of cubes it will vary, but around 1.5 hours should do it.

Once meat is tender add the orzo. Add more water and cook in 180C oven for about 30 minutes or until the orzo is soft and all water is evaporated. During the cooking process if it looks like it is getting too dry add more water.

Sprinkle some feta and fresh herb and serve with fresh bread and Greek salad.

Hommous decorated with paprika, oil an chickpeas

Fresh fruit salad with mango, melon, strawberries and blueberries

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