Preparation for Passover usually begins a full month before the holiday arrives, just after the festival of Purim. Since no leavened food may be eaten during all 7 days of Passover, we make a special effort to clean every room of the house so that all leavened products, even the smallest traces of them, are removed. We search for bread crumbs under the cushions of our sofas and chairs, and in the pockets of our coats and pants… we thoroughly clean our stove, oven, refrigerator, and freezer… it is a big job, but it does feel good to clean the house in such depth once a year.
Roughly at the same time as the clean-up, I start recipe testing for Passover: I like to make sure that by the time the holiday comes, my readers get some new recipes to try, as Passover can be quite a challenge with all its rules and prohibitions. What I am sharing with you today is the first recipe of my Passover repertoire for this year. It’s a recipe of the Roman Jewish tradition (which we define as giudaico-romanesca), called agnello alla giudaica in Italian, tender lamb with artichokes and fava beans.
This dish is a bit controversial, in the sense that it does trigger some discussion with very observant Jews on occasions. Let me try to preempt those conversations here, for the Jewish readers who might be interested.
First of all, the dish contains beans, so if you don’t do kitniyot on Passover this dish is not for you – although I must say it would be perfectly delicious even if one omitted the fava beans from the recipe, so maybe try it anyway?
Secondly, I am well aware that, as a sign of respect for the memory of the temple sacrifices, the eating of a whole roasted lamb on Passover is forbidden by the code of Jewish law called Shulchan Aruch.
Due to this rule, some people will not eat lamb at all on Passover, but I must say I side with the Jews who accept a looser interpretation of the law and will eat lamb, but not if it is roasted. And by roasted the rabbis seem to indicate something cooked in an oven without liquid, while our lamb is cooked in a pot with plenty of liquid… so I say we are good, but hey, it’s ultimately your call. You can still enjoy this yummy lamb dish year-round if you think it will not be appropriate for Passover. Actually, why don’t you go ahead and try it this week? We don’t need a special occasion to enjoy a tender piece of lamb with seasonal veggies!
Lamb with artichokes and fava beans (Agnello alla giudaica for Passover)
- 1 minced onion
- 5 crushed garlic cloves
- 70 g olive oil
- 1 kg lamb shoulder or leg or chops, anything will do
- 120 ml white wine
- 2 lemons
- 10 artichokes
- 20-30 fresh whole fava beans (frozen and shelled fava beans are ok too)
- salt to taste
- black pepper to taste
- Heat oil in a large casserole over medium-high heat, add onion and garlic, and stir occasionally until tender, for 4-5 minutes. Add lamb in batches, stir occasionally until browned all over, then add salt and pepper to taste and white wine. Let the wine evaporate, then add enough cold water to just cover the meat, bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until just tender.1 minced onion, 5 crushed garlic cloves, 70 g olive oil, 1 kg lamb shoulder or leg or chops, anything will do, salt to taste, black pepper to taste, 120 ml white wine
- Meanwhile, fill a bowl with water and squeeze in one lemon. Working with one artichoke at a time, remove tough outer leaves, then trim the top and peel back the stalk. Quarter lengthways, remove chokes with a teaspoon, place in acidulated water, and set aside.2 lemons, 10 artichokes
- If you bought your fava beans fresh, it's time to shell them. Open the pods and use your thumb to run down the inside of the pod, popping the beans out along the way to remove them from the pod.20-30 fresh whole fava beans (frozen and shelled fava beans are ok too)
- Now the question is whether you want to shell the individual fava beans out of their skins too or not: I usually can't be bothered, but if you care about the way the dish looks, you should.
- If you do, proceed as follows: bring a pot of water to a boil with a spoonful of salt, then blanch the beans for one minute.
- Drain the blanched fava beans and shell them again to remove their skin. Using your thumbnail, break through the shell at the dimpled point at the inside curve of the bean, then squeeze the other end of the shell to pop out the fava bean. It's a hell of a job: if you want to skip it, no harm will come out of it, it's just that the beans look better when you take the skin off, as their color is brighter.
- When lamb is just tender, increase heat to medium and bring to a boil. Drain artichokes, collect fava beans, and add both to lamb; squeeze in the juice of the second lemon and cook until artichokes are tender (4-5 minutes), then remove from heat.2 lemons
- Season generously to taste and transfer your lamb with artichokes and fava beans to a dish to cool slightly before serving.
- I like to serve this lamb with artichokes and fava beans dish as a relatively dry roast, with just enough liquid from the bottom of the pan to make it juicy, but the traditional way to serve it is "brodettato", that is, in its broth. If you serve the lamb with artichokes and fava beans in its broth, make sure to have enough bread at hand to dip into the sauce.