Preparation / Directions:
* Note: Green beans such as young favas or Romanos, trimmed, strings removed, and cut into 2- to 3-inch lengths. Unless you can find tender young favas, shell them before using.
Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Trim off all fat and sinew from the lamb and carefully wipe the meat to remove any bone splinters.
Heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large heavy skillet and lightly brown the lamb over medium heat. Drain on paper towels and transfer to a deep glazed clay or enamel-lined cast-iron casserole at least 4 inches deep. Reduce heat to low and sauté the onion 10 minutes or until soft. Add the tomatoes, honey, salt, and pepper, raise the heat, and boil 3 minutes or until reduced by one third. Add the tomato paste, stock, cumin, and oregano, stir to mix, and pour over the meat. Cover, and bake 50 minutes.
Blanch the beans in lightly salted water for 1 minute. Drain and add to the casserole with remaining olive oil. Shake gently to mix, cover, and bake 30 minutes longer. There should be about 1 1/2 cups of sauce -- if there is more, uncover the dish; if less, add a few tablespoons of water -- and bake 15 minutes longer. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the parsley, and stir in the remaining parsley. Set aside in a warm place for 5 minutes.
Chop the preserved lemon, garlic, reserved parsley, and a large pinch of salt to mix.
Add salt, pepper, and lemon juice to taste to the casserole; the sauce should be highly seasoned. Serve straight from the casserole, or transfer to a warm serving dish. Sprinkle with the parsley mixture and serve. This recipe serves 6.
Variations: Substitute 6 lean bone-in beef steaks for the lamb and use allspice instead of the cumin, dried thyme instead of the oregano.
Substitute lamb shanks for the lamb chops. Popular in eastern Mediterranean countries, lamb shanks produce a rich gelatinous sauce. Have the butcher cut 4 medium shanks into 2 or 3 thick slices each. Substitute 3 tablespoons ground cinnamon for the cumin if desired.
Comments: In the morning quiet of a Greek village, traditionally clad women may be seen hurrying to the village baker with huge covered trays; at midday they return to pay the baker a few drachmas and to collect the now succulent stews that have been simmering in the baker's oven. This aromatic dish of new lamb and young fava beans, cooked with tomatoes and onions and spiced with cumin and rigani (Greek oregano), is the spring version of a popular Greek dish that is made year-round in an infinite variety of meat, vegetable, and spice combinations. In summer and autumn chicken may be substituted for the lamb; in winter a pork and dried beans version warms and sustains. For best results, make sure the cooking is slow and steady, so that the pungent flavors of the herbs and spices can penetrate the meat and vegetables and develop a rich and highly seasoned sauce