Braised meat in a spiced tomato broth is a typical Greek dish. I used to hold my breath whenever one of my non Greek friends would take their first bite of pastichio, bracing for their reaction to cinnamon spiced ground meat. The adverse reactions happened more during my childhood. Now that I'm a full grown 30 year old adult, I'm lucky enough to have super open minded friends who appreciate all different kinds of spices, namely lamb and cinnamon. I was reminded how much I miss and love this dish when I saw my friend Peter's recipe for cinnamon braised lamb shanks. I got two cases of pomegranates sent to my Portland residence courtesy of POM Wonderful so I decided to merge the pomegranates with the cinnamon and lamb. I wish I could describe the rich fragrance that filled the house while the pot was braising away, but you'd have to make this yourself to fully understand :) Besides the heavenly aromas, biting into the tender, complex lamb enrobed in a rich sauce was pure exotic comfort.
I went to our local market to pick up some lamb shanks. When I say went, I mean biked, since I don't have a car - just an awesome Trek bike and backpack. I told the butcher what I wanted to do and he pulled out a about 10 lamb shanks. Way too much meat to fit in my backpack, not to mention it would set me back about $80 (local, Oregon raised lamb) - a little pricey for my grad school budget. The butchers got together and brained stormed, pulling out the lamb carcass from the back and sawing me off a nice shoulder chunk equating to about the same amount of meat (with less marrow) that I could carry in my yellow backpack, setting me back a much more manageable $25.
Pomegranate Cinnamon Braised Lamb with Papardelles
(adapted from Souvlaki for the Soul)
2 onions finely diced
2 carrots finely chopped
2 stalks of celery finely diced
4 cloves of garlic
4 lbs lamb shoulder
4 cinnamon sticks
2 cups chicken broth
4 cups of stewed canned tomatoes
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
3/4 cup pomegranate juice (you can use red wine if you don't have any juice)
2 dried bay leaves
3/4 cup pomegranate arils (seeds)
1 1/2 lbs pappardelle pasta (or your favorite egg pasta)
salt and pepper to taste
- Heat olive oil in a large deep frying pan and add the meat to brown on all sides. Remove and set aside.
- Add a little more oil, the onion, carrots, garlic and celery and sautee until translucent.
- Add tomatoes, tomato paste, broth, pomegranate juice, cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, salt and pepper stirring to combine.
- Add the browned lamb and bring to a boil, then lower heat to simmer.
- Simmer lamb on low heat for approximately 3 hours (or more, if you have time) or until the meat falls of the bone.
- Remove pot from heat and set aside to cool down. Once cooled, removed meat from the bone.
- Remove bay leaves and cinnamon stick from the sauce and add back the shredded meat.
- Boil and prepare pasta per instructions on package.
- Give everything a good stir and ladle the sauce and meat over cooked egg noodles.
- Sprinkle with pomegranate arils and serve.