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Lamb and Potato Confit - Confit de Cordero con Patatas

In the Tierra de Campos this was the traditional way of cooking baby lamb to give a preserved meat that would last for more than one meal. It needs patience and care to duplicate the kind of slow diffused heat that would have come from using an earthenware casserole over a wood fire, but it is worth the effort. Do not be frightened by the quantities of oil and lard; they turn into an olive oil dripping that can be used for cooking the potatoes and flavoring stews or other dishes. The recipe, from the village of Urueña in the Montes de Torozo, was given to me by Damaso Vergara of the Mesón La Loba Parda. He emphasizes that you must trim all the fat off the lamb and that the dish improves with several days keeping. This goes well with a simple green salad and, Damaso suggests, creamed baked garlic.

Makes 4-6 servings.

Prep Time: 40 min.

Cook Time: 2 hr.

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1 - 1/2 lb baby lamb per person, cut into chunks on the bone, all fat removed
1 lb quality lard
1 quart extra virgin olive oil (0.4 acidity)
1 head of garlic, divided into cloves but not skinned
3-4 bay leaves
1 small handful of parsley sprigs
2 1/2 - 3 lb frying potatoes, peeled

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Choose a heavy-bottomed casserole, ideally made of earthenware, or a copper-bottomed pan. There should be enough space for the lamb to fry comfortably. Put the lard, oil, bay leaves and garlic in the casserole or pan over the lowest possible flame or setting on your stove. At the right temperature the oil should have small champagne-like bubbles rising to the surface.

When the garlic is golden, add the lamb and parsley. Keep the temperature low, swaying the pan gently from time to time during the cooking. During the first 20-30 minutes the lamb's juices will seep out into the oil. At the end of cooking time, after about 1 1/2 hours in all, the meat should be cooked through but still tender and hardly browned. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. When the fat has solidified place the casserole, covered, in the fridge or a cool larder (or transfer from a metal pan into a storage container).

When the right moment has come to eat the lamb, pick out the chunks you need with the fat that clings to them into a heatproof dish. Scoop the remaining fat into a deep frying pan and use to fry the potatoes. Drain them on kitchen paper towels and keep the fat to use again. Meanwhile, heat the lamb through briefly in a hot oven.

Selected by Vicky Hayward
Recipe courtesy of Spain GourmeTour magazine.

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