We have this spice called mastic gum or tears of Chios, which is the resine of the gum tree. Originally it is from Chios, a Greek island we call “Sakız Adası” (Gum Island). The island has the story of trees crying tears of this gum for this or that mythologic or religious reason. The spice has a very unique taste and it is not very well known other than by Greeks, Turks and a few other eastern mediterraneans.
In Turkey we mainly use it for desserts. But I have been thinking we should use it for others as well. So I considered lamb, as it is quite good with sweet aromas. Don’t get me wrong by itself mastic is very bitter but as I am used to it as dessert so it is a sweet aroma for me. Anyway I searched a bit and found that it is indeed used with lamb. I kind of reinvented the same thing but that’s ok! I have added this discovery to my list of trials a while back but since our list waay to long, we just found the opportunity.
I set the lamb shanks in an earthenware casserole. I pestled the mastic (5-6 small or 2-3 bigger pieces) and mixed it into 120 ml white wine. I poured it onto the lamb and seasoned only with salt and pepper as I wanted to test the spice with lamb. I covered the casserole and cooked in the oven (180C) for three hours. Halfway down the cooking I flipped the shanks for even browning.
After three hours, I set the lamb shanks aside, took the sauce and added xantan gum to thicken and blended. Alternatively you can try adding starch (diluted in water) and simmer for a couple of minutes.
The aroma was not very strong but it was a deep, elegant flavour. I think it really matched well.
Now it’s time to try duck with mastic!