Lamb ribs, usually served covered in sticky glaze after 10 minutes of scorching on a smoky braai, lend themselves superbly to a dense, flavoursome, meaty casserole. Boiling up a kilogram of meat and potatoes is no big deal, which is why this is called a casserole and not a stew. A casserole is a big deal, especially when there’s a mystery ingredient that rockets this combo of lamb and vegetables into the stratosphere.
To make this delicious, filling casserole that’s certain to impress, you will need the following for four diners: • 800g lamb ribs • 2 onions • 1 clove of garlic • 1 bay leaf • 3 carrots • 4 anchovies • 2 teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce • 400 ml mutton stock • 800g firm-cooking potatoes • Salt and pepper to taste • Flour, butter and extra virgin olive oil to use as required
Scientists will immeditately spot the unexpected ingredient. Yes, you’re right – it’s the anchovies. In this context, the anchovies serve as catalysts in that they transform the interaction of the ingredients, yet do not, under any circumstances, add a fishy tang to the flavour. Buy them in a little bottle suspended in olive oil. Remove four, maybe five fillets from the jar and chop them coarsely.
Next, peel and thickly slice the potatoes. Clean the carrots, then cut them lengthwise into sections. Peel and slice the onions, crush, peel and mince the garlic.
Now only the mutton stock remains an issue. Make this by simmering three pieces of mutton neck in a litre of water for 45 minutes, with a sliced onion, a sliced carrot and a stick of celery. Skim off the fat, remove the solids and retain the liquid. Measure 400ml to 500ml and you’ve got the mutton stock. Alternatively, use a top quality stock cube or two. Don’t feel ashamed – nobody needs to know.
Moving on: select a suitable casserole dish. My preference is an enamel cast iron one with a fitted lid. Using the hob, melt a tablespoon or two of butter in the casserole dish and add an equal quantity of extra virgin olive oil. The oil keeps the butter from burning. this, sweat the onion and garlic. When soft and transparent, remove and mix with half the quantity of the thinly sliced raw potatoes. Return these to the pan and let them lightly cook in the residual butter/oil mixture, then remove and reserve. Mix a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of pepper with half a cup of white flour. Use this to lightly dust the raw lamb ribs then brown them in the cooking pot to which you have added the single bay leaf. Arrange the browned ribs in layers, interspersed with the cooked potato and onion mixture. Add the carrots, the Worcestershire sauce, the stock, and the chopped anchovies. Also add the remaining raw potato slices on top, ensure that the stock just covers them, fit the lid and bake in a preheated oven at 150°C for 75 to 90 minutes. Check on the lamb regularly to see if it’s done, since ovens can vary considerably. Season to taste and serve with a heavy red wine. – David Basckin