This recipe has its roots in medieval Byzantine cooking, with the use of dried fruit and spice. It is warming and pungent, with peppery overtones and the earthiness of cumin playing against the sweetness of the raisins. You can further push the sweetness – and old-world flavour – by adding a tablespoon of honey to the wine. Serve with a buttered rice or small pasta, such as risoni or stellini, mashed potato, or boiled chat or Dutch cream potatoes tossed in butter and dill.
extra virgin olive oil
4 x thick lamb-leg or chump chops
2½ tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp black peppercorns, crushed
1 large brown onion, cut into 6 wedges
5 cloves garlic, skin on, smashed
2 tsp tomato paste
200ml white wine
1½ tbsp white wine vinegar
800ml chicken stock
1 tbsp dried Greek oregano
3 sprigs thyme
peeled zest of ½ lemon
1 bunch cavolo nero, leaves stripped and cut into 5cm strips
1. Preheat the oven to 190C (170C fan-forced).
2. Heat a good splash of oil in a large, heavy-based casserole pan over medium heat and fry the chops for about 3 minutes on each side. Season with salt and add the spices and pepper in the last minute of cooking, then remove from the pan.
3. Add another splash of oil to the pan, along with the onion and garlic. Cook for about 5 minutes until softened, then stir through the tomato paste. Return the chops and deglaze with the wine and vinegar. Reduce for 2 minutes, then add the stock and bring to a simmer. Add the raisins, oregano, thyme and lemon peel. Transfer the pan to the oven with the lid slightly ajar and cook for 30 minutes.
4. Stir the cavolo nero into the liquid and cook for another 15 minutes.
5. When the cavolo nero is cooked and the meat tender, remove from the oven. Remove the chops and any solids from the liquid and reduce the remaining liquid on the stove top until thickened and saucy (about 5 minutes). Adjust the seasoning if necessary and return everything to the pan before serving.