mary had a little lamb

I’ve waxed lyrical about what a great cook Auntie K is.  Well, full disclosure: her first name is Mary. And this is a Lamb Stew. Ba-dum-dum.

Anyways, this is one well-travelled recipe.  And probably one of my all-time favorite meals.  Athenian Lamb Stew has been our Christmas Eve dinner of choice for…wow is it 10 years?  Auntie K, Unkie J and the Grandparents have been dining on this since…well probably before I was born.  It all started in a quaint little cottage in humble Falls Church, VA.  I came out to the DC Area and Auntie and Unkie promptly packed up shop and headed for California (love you too, guys).  We tracked them down in dreary Sonoma, CA and continued the tradition.  And now in Chicago, the pots still simmer on Dec. 24.

Countless smiles and belly-aching laughs have been shared over this stew.  There’s a reason it’s stuck around–its GOOD. Tender, tasty, and fills your tummy and your soul. To be honest, I have NO idea where it came from.  The original I can recall is a printed sheet from back when Prodigy was the internet service of choice.

I know you’re all thinking, “enough with this sentimental crap! when are you sticking your arm up a chicken’s be-hind again?”  Patience, grasshopper. While you’re practicing this virtue, MAKE THE STEW.

Athenian Lamb Stew


  • 1 med-large onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • 2 lbs. lean lamb shoulder or leg, cubed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 28-oz can crushed italian-style tomatoes (Progresso is the brand of choice)
  • 1/2 c. red wine
  • 1-2 c. green beans
  • 1 stick cinnamon


  • Pop the bubbly
  • Enslave Grandma to cube the lamb

full disclosure: those instructions were not included in the original.

  • Prep your veg-a-veg

  • Ok NOW we’re ready: Saute onion, garlic, basil, and lamb in olive oil until onion is tender. Season with salt and pepper.

action shot! into the pot, little ones!

  • Continue cooking until the lamb is lightly browned.
  • Add tomatoes and wine, cook 10 minutes.

what, oh what, to do with 10 minutes and a mostly-full bottle of red wine...

  • Add green beans and cinnamon stick.

  • Cover and cook over low heat 1-1.5 hours, until lamb is very tender.

well hell-O my pretties!

  • Serve with lemon rice.

if you put your stew next to your rice instead of on top, i will judge you.

Wow, you’re thinking to yourself, Lemon Rice sounds good. I wonder how they do that?


Lemon Rice


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 c. rice
  • 1/4-1/3 c. onion, chopped
  • juice of one lemon plus enough water to make 2 cups
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon chicken bullion crystals
  • pepper


  • Saute onions in oil until translucent but not brown (medium heat is best)
  • Add rice, water, bullion, oregano, pepper
  • Bring to boil, cover, turn down to simmer
  • Cook 20-25 minutes.

8 responses

  1. Awesome post. I’m particularly excited, as someone who has limited store runs per month, that I tend to have all those ingredients on hand.

  2. The Athenian Lamb Stew tradition started some time around 1991, when Grandma and Grandpa first came to visit us for Xmas (we were then in Alexandria, VA). It actually wasn’t necessarily an Xmas eve dish–it was the meal we made the first night everyone was together. Grandma and I got the recipe through a pre-Intertubes search on the Prodigy network. The original recipe also called for diced potatoes, which we left out as unnecessary after the first time we made it, and also called for rose wine, although red works well, and I would imagine white would too. I made up the lemon rice recipe based on rice I had in a Greek restaurant in Greensboro, NC, when Grandma and I were down there furniture shopping about 20 years ago. Just wanted to ensure that the family lore was complete.

    PS–you came to DC in 2003, and Unkie J and I did not leave until 2005. Of course, it took us a little bit of time to get our affairs in order…..

  3. I just noticed that the recipe calls for a 12-oz can of crushed Italian tomatoes…actually, we use a 28-oz can…Progresso was always the brand of choice. I will shut up now…..

    • Yes! Auntie K to the rescue! I was hoping someone would chime in and fill all the wholes in my story 🙂

      I edited the recipe to include the larger size of tomatoes (and your brand of choice 🙂

      Thank you! xoxoco

  4. I still have the copy from Prodigy somewhere, and I think that the recipe originally came from some restaurant in California, just to show that things do come full circle.

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