I just looked at the title of this blog and realized there may be a soul (or two) out there who fear this recipe calls for orange lambs. Before you start a fevered internet search looking for orange-fleeced lambs, let me stop you. The orange comes from the fruit, not the fleece. Although, I think it would be pretty nifty if lambs were orange-colored but that’s just me.
I digress…at this time of the year, when it’s almost spring but not really, citrus is a rare bright spot. Not only does it keep scurvy at bay (always a worry, right?) but it lifts (almost) any dish immeasurably. It’s like that perky friend who is so upbeat that they’re annoying after the second margarita.
Oranges — our best friend in this dish — give food sweetness and the requisite hit of acidity. It’s an ideal partner for lamb as it cuts through the rich ‘lambiness’ (this is not a real term, but you know what I mean). I’ve used blood oranges which are gorgeous and red like a fiery sunset and cost enough to fund retirement home on a small Caribbean island. If you can’t find them, fear not — regular juice oranges will suffice.
Prunes, aside from the gastrointestinal assistance they provide, add sweetness while black olives add a briny, savory bite to the dish. The star however is our Chipotle Rub & Mix which is a heady blend of three chiles, including that smokey superstar: chipotle (cue round of applause). Best of all, most of the work is done in a slow cooker or low oven so you can get on with other things like your taxes, a home perm, or shooting a tik tok video of your dog. Your choice. There is no shame.
Chile & Orange Lamb with Prunes and Black Olives
3 lbs cubed lamb shoulder
2 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
1 banana shallot, peeled and roughly chopped
1 Tbsp Chipotle Rub & Mix
1 1/2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1/2 tsp salt
2 blood oranges, juice from both and finely grated zest from one
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
5 oz pitted prunes, chopped (about 1 cupful)
4 oz pittled kalamata black olives, chopped (about 1 cupful)
Cilantro, to garnish
In a small food processor, blitz the garlic, shallot, Chipotle Rub & Mix, ginger, salt, blood orange juice and zest, and 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil until a rough paste. Place the cubed lamb in a bowl and combine with the marinade. Cover and place in the refrigerator for up to four hours.
Preheat the oven to 220 degrees farenheit. Remove the lamb from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature. On the stove, heat an oven proof casserole to medium high heat, add the other tablespoon of oil to the pan and sear the lamb. You’ll need to do this in batches. Make sure you sear the cubes on all sides. Remove and place in a clean bowl or plate and continue until all of the lamb is seared.
When you’ve finished, place all of the lamb back into the casserole, cover and place in the preheated oven. Alternatively, you can use a slow cooker. Cook for around 4 hours until the lamb is super tender. Add the prunes and black olives, cook for another half an hour or so and serve garnished with cilantro.