Yiouvetsi is a traditional Greek Orzo and Lamb Recipe; the original one pot meal.
How many times have you thought “what the bloody hell am I going to cook today for everyone?” If you live on your own; maybe a few times a month – if you’ve got kids; probably everyday. Well Stop! Here is your answer (for one night anyway)..
Tender pieces of lamb cooked in orzo and gently baked together make a brilliant easy family dinner.
Yiouvetsi (pronounced ‘you-vet-si’) is as old as they come. Traditionally yiouvetsi was cooked in a wood burning oven (but who the hell has one of those nowadays?!), we cook this a lot at home and is part of the Michaels’ family staple diet.
The thing I love about Yiouvetsi is it’s a great one pot meal (which means less washing up) and you can stick it in the middle of the table and just let everyone help themselves; I always feel this is the way families and friends should eat, it makes it social, interactive.
I think the real secret to a great Greek stew or casserole like this one and what elevates it from just another lamb orzo recipe is the garnish at the end. Fresh thinly cut red onions, tomatoes, lots of herbs and feta with a squeeze of lemon gives this earthy warm Greek casserole a sudden lift of freshness which is a delight to eat in both summer or winter (and all in between!).
Orzo is the little grains of pasta that resemble rice (to a degree) and if you use the right quantities of orzo and stock (which I’ve kindly provided through several attempts of trying to get it right!) you get just enough moisture to cook the orzo but not have a sloppy dish you need a spoon to eat.
Greek recipes like this are hard to define; they have all the usual suspects; lamb (Greeks love lamb, who doesn’t?), lemon, olive oil, feta… But once you start to explore the history of any recipe you sooner or later start to feel they are just another amalgamation of different cultures all adding their influence over the years..
But who cares about all that when you just want something delicious to sink your teeth into?!
Most of my recipes are fairly fluid in terms of quantities, as being frank, a little more of this and a little less of that doesn’t really make too much difference and it comes down to personal taste anyway. But for this dish the quantities of orzo and stock are quite specific to get that right balance.
Most Yiouvetsi recipes or Lamb and Orzo bakes tend to make a very rich tomato sauce but personally I think that is overkill and starts to mask a lot of the flavours; for me I prefer a lighter cleaner dish.
If you want an ass-kicking rich deep stew check out my Greek Stifado recipe or even my Brazilian Blackbean Stew (Feijoada) recipe.
Now if you want to steer away from a traditional Greek recipe I sometimes like to lean the flavours to a more north African feel (think Morocco). Just add a tablespoon of smoked paprika, half a dozen roughly cut dates and scatter some almonds, a handful of pomegranate seeds and fresh coriander over the top at the end and it’s quite incredible how it transforms it from a Mediterranean dish to something distinctly Middle Eastern.
Oh, and if for some reason you’re really weird and don’t like lamb (sharp intake of breath) it is quite common for Yiouvetsi to be made with beef, in fact that is probably more popular than lamb, but the reality is you can get away with using what you want; beef, chicken, pork (but try to on the bone cuts; things like chicken breast or pork loin is so lean it has a tendency to dry out).
Anyway, enough of me blathering on; lets get cooking!
Goes well with some light salad and a cold glass of white wine!
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Yiouvetsi Recipe, Greek lamb and orzo pasta supper.
- 1 medium cooking onion diced
- 3 cloves garlic sliced
- 800g Lamb shoulder (cut into 2 inch chunks)
- 150g cherry tomatoes halved (or other on the vine tomatoes)
- 2tbsp tomato purée
- 1 tbsp vinegar
- 750ml stock
- 300g orzo pasta
- Few sprigs of fresh rosemary
- 1 tbsp dried mint (optional for lamb)
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tbsp oregano
- 1 stick cinnamon (approx 3 inches long)
- Pinch chilli flakes
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Garnish Ingredients:
- 1/4 red onion thinly sliced
- 6 cherry tomatoes diced
- Handful fresh mixed herbs chopped (parsley, coriander, basil - whatever you have available)
- Squeeze of lemon
- 100g feta cheese crumbled
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Step 1 In a large casserole dish, on medium heat, fry the diced onions until they start to colour, then add the lamb shoulder, turn up the heat and brown the meat.
- Step 2 Once browned add the garlic and mix through for a couple of minutes. NB. Depending how fatty the lamb shoulder is you may at this stage want to spoon out some of the rendered oil. But ensure there is at least a few tablespoons of oil left in the pan.
- Step 3 Now add all most of the other ingredients (except the stock and garnish ingredients), combine everything and fry for a couple of minutes before adding all the stock.
- Step 4 Bring it to a simmer, then turn the heat down to low, cover leaving a little gap (I put the lid on slightly lopsided so there is a small gap of about an inch) and stick the whole thing into your oven at 170c for 30 minutes (fan assisted oven).
- Step 5 Remove from the oven and let it rest for at least 10 minutes before you even think about taking the lid off, touching it, stirring it, having a sneaky taste.
- Step 6 This stage is mandatory otherwise the meat is tough, but everyone knows that by now right?
- Step 7 Fluff the yiouvetsi with a fork as you pour it out onto a large serving platter and then scatter all the garnish ingredients over the top with a good drizzle of lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil and salt and pepper.