Eva and I can’t stop eating at the moment. Maybe it is the stress of publishing a book and launching a new business in the run-up to Christmas, or that we spend so much of our time talking and writing about food, or even just that we are taking full advantage of the season of over-indulgence; but it seems that no mince-pie or cheese board is safe from our greedy little fingers at the moment.
We’ll return to healthier ways in the New Year. Here’s hoping!
Growing up in Selia, a village in the wild mountains of Southern Crete, Yiayia and her family would fast in the days leading up to Christmas. This was mostly for religious reasons, although it was also considered healthy practice. On Christmas Day after the morning church service, Great Yiayia would always serve this delicious Arni Avgolemono for breakfast, before settling down for the main feast of a traditional roast hog with potatoes for Christmas lunch.
This is a recipe that has been passed down through the generations and always takes Yiayia back to when she was a young girl.
The tangy lemon and vibrant dill compliment the succulent lamb perfectly.
Preparation Time 15 minutes
Cooking Time 2¼-2½ hours
700g lamb (Yiayia likes using boneless leg of lamb, but any will do)
2 small onions, finely chopped
3 tbsp olive oil
400ml cold water
1 tbsp dill, finely chopped and further 1 tsp dill, finely chopped
salt and pepper
juice of 2 lemons (or more according to taste)
1 tsp cornflour
Cut your lamb into chunks, approx. 1 inch cubes.
Add the lamb to a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil and then cook for a further 1 minute. Drain and wash the lamb under cold water and place to one side.
Clean the saucepan.
Just add the onion to the saucepan and cook on a medium heat for a minute or so, to remove some of its water.
Add the olive oil to the saucepan, mix well and cook until the onion browns a little.
Turn the heat up to very high and add the lamb. Stir well and cook for approx. 2-3 minutes searing all sides of the meat, sealing in the juices.
Lower the heat to medium, add 400ml of water, cover with a lid and cook for 2 hours (if using lamb with bone, a further 15 minutes cooking time will be needed). There should be a good amount of sauce so do check whilst cooking as you may feel you need to add some more water.
You can check to see when the lamb is ready by piercing with a fork. It is cooked when the meat easily falls off the fork.
Add 1 tbsp of dill and season with salt and pepper. Stir well.
Turn the heat to very low.
Add the eggs, lemon juice and cornflour into a deep bowl or deep plastic container (if you use too shallow a bowl it will get messy!). With a hand blender (or you can use two forks), mix well until the mixture bubbles.
Fill a full ladle with the hot juice from the saucepan. Slowly pour this into the bowl with your egg/lemon mix and whilst pouring, combine with a hand blender at the same time.
Fill half the ladle with cold water and slowly pour this into the bowl with your egg/lemon mix. Again as you are pouring the cold water, combine with the hand blender. (The cold water and cornflour will prevent the egg from curdling).
With the heat still on low, slowly add the avgolemono (egg/lemon mix) to the saucepan and gently stir continuously. You must continue to patiently stir until the soup boils. You will however need to increase the heat slightly so you are not stirring forever! But do be careful not to put the heat on too high.
Add 1 tsp of dill to add extra flavour and colour. Still on a low heat continue to stir gently and you will notice the sauce thickening.
Taste and add extra lemon juice, salt and/or pepper according to taste.
Nicely served with basmati rice.
Yiayia’s tip: Always have extra lemon juice on offer as your guests may prefer a more tangy taste.
Yiayia’s tip: If you feel the consistency is too runny, take ½ tsp of cornflour and dissolve in a little water. Add this to the soup to make it thicker.