I really love cooking stews. Every 2 weeks or so, usually on friday, I make a stew of some sort. It's so comforting when it's -20 outside, like it is now, and it makes the house smell amazing. Most of the time it ends up being a beef stew, because beef is cheap, but this week at the grocery store there was some surprisingly cheap lamb cubes...oh joy. I rarely eat lamb because it's so pricy, so I jumped at that occasion. Now forgive me, I don't remember exactly how much there was, so I can't tell you the amount of meat in there, but it was around a pound. Maybe a bit more...
Anyway the exact amounts in dishes like this is not too important. The end result is what counts!
For this lamb stew I was gonna do it like I do a beef stew, with red wine and rosemary, and some potatoes and onions. But after browsing around some food blogs I got inspired by an indian cooking blog and decided to go for a curry stew. It's quite different in taste, but the procedure is exactly the same!
Here's what you'll need:
About 1 lbs lamb cubes, cut into 1 inch cubes
2-3 TBSP flour
1 big yellow onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 piece fresh ginger, about 1 cm. No need to chop it...
1 cup whole tomatoes, roughly chopped
1/3 cup tomato juice (from the can of whole tomatoes...)
1 TBSP brown sugar
1 cup vegetable broth
1 big carrot
1 branch celeri
1/3 cup red lentils
1 TBSP tomato paste
1 bay leaf
For the spices, I used a curry mix I got as present a while ago, it's called "Panch Phoran". It's got cumin, mustard, nigella, fennel and fenugreek seeds. And I added other spices I really like and that go great in a curry:
2 tsp Panch Phoran, or curry spice mix
1 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp tumeric
1/2 tsp crushed chili
salt and pepper
Throw all the spices in a morter and pestle and grind away! The smell will be a-ma-zing!
So for the stew. Firt of all, toss the lamb in the flour with about 1 tsp of the spice mix.
In your favorite heavy bottom pot heat up (on medium high) 1-2 TBSP oil and brown the meat on both sides, in batches, until nice and brown. Remove and set aside.
Add a bit more oil and sautee the onion, garlic and ginger with salt and pepper, until the onion is semi-soft. Carefull not to burn the garlic! It might be a good idea to turn the heat to medium for this. Then return the lamb to the pot and mix well, add a bit more spices, about 1/2 tsp. Since these spices can be quite, uh, spicy, I add only a bit at a time and check later if it needs more. Too much is not good, but not enough can be corrected later!!
To deglaze, pour in the tomato juice, and scrub the bottom of the pan to lift those brown bits! Brown bits=flavor!!
Add the tomatoes, broth, sugar and a bit more spices. When it starts to bubble, turn the heat down to low, cover and let it go for about 1 hour.
After that hour as passed add the carrot, celeri and lentils, check and adjust the spice status, re-cover and let it go again until the veggies are soft and the lamb falls appart at the touch of a fork, about 2-3 hours. The longer it simmers the tender the meat! And the less the cover gets lifted the better, too! I know it's tempting to look every 15 minutes but let it have its heat! Patience is key.
When it's all nice and cooked, add the tomato paste. Wait 15-20 more minutes or so to let the tomato paste do its thickening job, and it's ready!
You can enjoy this with rice, coucous, pasta, or by itself with some nice bread.