The sumac bush grows in Sicily but I have never, to my knowledge, seen one and I do not know if it is the culinary kind that is grown. [I'm pretty useless at plants so unless it grew labelled, I wouldn't recognise it!] Anyway, I have never found the spice here and miss cooking with it but sometimes friends are kind enough to send some from the UK. Armed with a fresh supply and with a nod to the Sicilian tradition of combining lamb with artichokes, here is the dish I've invented for this Easter:
Middle Eastern Sicilian Lamb
4 tablesp olive oil
2 sticks celery, chopped
1 medium white onion, chopped
a little flour
2 heaped teasp powdered sumac
1 kg lamb in large pieces, bone in
8 artichoke hearts [I used the frozen ones that are sold here as it saves a lot of trouble and swearing]
300 ml dry white wine
125 gr dried apricots, chopped [best done with a scissors]
seasoning to taste
a handful of fresh herbs such as rosemary, sage and thyme
Heat the olive oil in a wide pan and soften the onion and celery in it. Spread a good handful of flour on a plate, mix in the sumac and dip the lamb pieces in the mixture. Immediately drop the lamb into the pan and brown on all sides. Add the white wine, 300 ml water, the artichokes [not defrosted] and any remaining flour. Stir well and season, taking care not to add too much pepper because of the sumac. Add the apricots and, last but not least, a handful of fresh herbs - I used rosemary as I think it's a must with lamb, sage and thyme. Cover the pan and simmer the dish for 50 mins.
Buon appetito e buona Pasqua.