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Anho Assado (Roast Lamb) with oven-baked rice

The anho assado (roast lamb) with oven-baked rice is a must on special days, weddings, baptisms and birthdays.But many people also do not want to forego the green cabbage soup or bazulaque (lung and liver stew), which was offered to the guests of the bride and groom before they made their way to the church.

Anho assado (roast lamb) with oven-baked rice is the quintessential festivity feast since time immemorial, playing a special role in this region between the Douro and the Tâmega where livestock husbandry complements agriculture.

This speciality has a close link to the meal served to the workers – often neighbours of small communities who took turns in helping each other with agricultural work – at the end of a day of grape harvesting. The anhoassado was also an obligatory part of the wedding feast, to the extent that guests would not ask for the wedding date, but rather when the anho feast of the wedding was to take place.

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The history of the oven-baked rice, typical to this region and promoted and defended by the county of Baião, is unique. In the old and difficult times in these lands of barons, masters and caretakers, on days of celebration, the caretakers would prepare the roast lamb in the oven for their lords. As at the end of the meal not much of the roast itself would be left, but plenty of rice, the caretakers found a way to enjoying the flavours of the lamb, roasting it over a grill so that the spices and the flavours of the roast could drip onto the rice so they could eat a tasty rice, flavoured with roast lamb.

(…) and the farm itself, with its trellises casting a soft shadow, the dormant whisper of the waters of the irrigation, the light golden and mat tones of the wheat fields, offers, like no other human or biblical paradise, the perfect rest for those who emerge from the table, heavy and smiling, after this rice and this roast lamb (…)

in The correspondence of Fradique Marques, Eça de Queiroz

Preparing anhoassado (roast lamb) with oven-baked rice:

Ingredients usedA lamb of approx. 10 kg, bay leave, parsley, garlic, olive oil, onion, paprika, bacon, lard, white Verde wine, salt, rice, potatoes.

Method of preparation: A paste of the spices is prepared a day ahead to grease the lamb and leave it to rest and absorb the flavours. The following day, a broth is made with the head and legs of the lamb, salpicão sausage, presunto smoked ham, pork meat, beef, onion and salt. Boil until obtaining a white colour. In the meantime, place the rice in a clay bowl, add onions, a dash of olive oil, parsley and salt. Add the previously prepared broth, mix and place a grill over the bowl. The lamb will later be placed on that grill.

Whilst doing this step, light the wood oven. The flames should be steady so the oven does not heat up too much or too quickly. Take your time and stir the flames from time to time. Once the oven is hot and resembles white clay on the inside it is ready to cook the lamb like no-one else can. Place the bowl with the rice, the grill and the “greased” lamb on top. Close the door and leave to roast slowly for one hour. Then open the door of the oven, turn the lamp and return to the oven, closing the door and leaving to cook for another third of the cooking time. When reopening the door, the lamb will be nicely coloured and ready to eat.

This dish owes its uniqueness to the way it is prepared, which should be done in a wood oven made of white bricks and the lamb has to be roasted over the rice. It is essential to start the preparation a day ahead so the flavour of the meat is complemented by the flavours of the ingredients of the paste the lamb is pasted with.

Availability throughout the year:The anhoassado(roast lamb) with oven-baked rice is available all year long in the county, especially on the weekends and market days on the 8th and 23rd of each month, in the many restaurants in the village of Baião. Pre-booking is required on the remaining days of the month and for large groups.

Tip: Click on the pictures to enlarge.

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