A Lamb Recipe from a recipe mentioned in Voice of the Violin
Do you like soft music while you eat? Agnello (Lamb) alla cacciatore is the recipe I’ve chosen from the several dishes mentioned in Voice of the Violin. Montalbano eats this masterpiece at a little osteria not far from his home base, Vigato, not his usual dining place. This fictional eatery is called La Cacciatora, in the country, but has no wild game! (Cacciatora means from the hunt). I took great delight in this typical piece of the many tiny ironies that spread over Italian daily life.
Why did I choose this dish instead of a seafood creation? Lamb is my favorite meat. The other dish that really appealed to me in this volume is stuffed zucchini flowers. These are referred to in the book by their dialect name, tinnirume. The only problem is how difficult it is to find someone in the US willing to sell you the flower of the zucchini. I have tried making them from recipes on the web, but I’ve never watched someone make them. I find it difficult to sauté them into edible perfection. It could be the ones I managed to buy were old; it could be that I just made a mess of it. Of course, if you have a garden of your own, you can try to make them, and I advise that you pluck the flowers while they are new, young, and tender. Better yet, look for a restaurant that makes them.
It is also not easy to find lamb here in the USA, but a bit of diligence at your local grocery store will likely find lamb shoulder roast, especially in the spring. So, excusing the bad pun in the title of the blog, I researched the dish that fortifies him for the successful resolution of the mystery in this volume.
I will be frank with you, this is not a recipe I make at home—chicken cacciatore, yes. Lamb no. I have made other lamb stews, but not this Sicilian specialty. Lamb, logically, is eaten more often in the interior of the Island than the coast. As I noted earlier, lamb is my favorite meat, so I was thrilled to find that Montalbano enjoyed it too on a visit to the countryside.
I researched several recipes for lamb cacciatore, Sicilian style and found it interesting that most of these, unlike chicken cacciatore, were not made in a tomato-based sauce. Common elements in most of the recipes were rosemary, anchovies, and mint. Use of mint harks back to the Arab occupation of Sicily. Anchovies as flavoring (just two, and they disappear in the sauce) harks back to the ancient Roman use of garum (fish sauce) in almost everything.
For Mother’s Day this year, my husband is going to grill lamb chops, but I will keep this lamb recipe in mind for spring, when the whole shoulder or lamb stew meat is more available. I’ve adapted the recipe below from those I found on Bon Appetit, a site called Errne’s Kitchen and one called simply, Italian Recipes.
2 pounds of boned lamb cut into pieces for stewing
3-5 T olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 sprig fresh rosemary, (2T dry)
I Teaspoon fresh mint,
2 cloves fresh garlic, diced.
(Optional—two anchovies , chopped,)
1 cup apple cider or white wine
1 cup (up to) beef broth
Season lamb piece with salt and pepper
Brown lamb in the olive oil with the rosemary and mint
Continue to brown the meat
Deglaze the pan with 1 cup apple cider or 1 cup white wine.
Simmer, covered for at least 30 minutes, checking to be sure
There is enough liquid
Add broth, slowly (you will need at least one cup)—I use beef broth for this since it combines well with the lamb flavors
Cover the pan, continue to cook on low heat for about another hour—check to make sure the liquid is not evaporated. You can also use warm beef broth to continue to add liquid
Serve with a rustic bread and a side salad.
Options—when you continue to brown the lamb, add a cup of sliced mushrooms, and some sliced carrots. I might also add a bit more rosemary and some more mint and a bit of parsley at the end.
I’m not sure if this is the way the Inspector’s host fixed it, but I know I like it this way and I like mushrooms in everything.