Lamb stew with carrots, capsicums and chickpeas
Here's an annoying little ditty that goes "Roast meat is best meat, boiled meat is spoiled meat", which men of a certain age like to quote when asked if they'd like a nice stew for dinner. It was American natralist Ernest Thompson Seton (1860-1946) who wrote these immortal words in one of his camping books that passed on the survival skills of American Indians. By the 1940s, these books had found their way to this country and were lapped up by boys, who then passed on the cooking advice to their mothers. There is something to it. The aroma and taste of roast meat is irresistible and it is all too easy to ruin a stew by boiling it to death. Yet this shouldn't put anyone off. Whether it is called a stew, braise, ragout, tagine or even the bluntly fashionable "wet dish", there are many wonderful meat dishes that need to be cooked slowly and tenderly in a flavoursome liquid.
My favourite meat for this style of cooking is lamb cut from the shoulder. If there are just two of us for dinner, I might pick up a tray of shoulder chops from the supermarket display, but more often I go to the butcher's shop and ask for a boned forequarter of lamb. You are unlikely to see this cut on display, so you need to allow time for the butcher to prepare it for you or order it ahead of time.
|1||Boned lamb shoulder, approx 1kg|
|¼ cup||Flour, seasoned|
|4 Tbsp||Olive oil|
|2||Onions, medium brown and sliced|
|3||Garlic cloves, sliced|
|1 to taste||Fresh thyme, or oregano|
|⅓ cup||Sweet sherry|
|3||Carrots, peeled and cut into chunks|
|2||Red capsicums, grilled, peeled and sliced|
|4||Tomatoes, blanched, peeled and sliced|
|1 to taste||Salt & freshly ground pepper|
|1 cup||Beef stock|
|¼ cup||Fresh parsley|
- Carefully trim all the skin and as much fat as you can from the lamb and cut into large chunks. Lightly toss the lamb with flour seasoned with salt and pepper. Heat half the olive oil in a large frying pan and brown the lamb all over. You will need to do this in 2 or 3 batches. While you are browning the lamb, put the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a heavy casserole pot and add the prepared onions and garlic.
- Cook these gently until beginning to take on a golden colour. As each batch of lamb chunks is browned, add it to the onions. Add the thyme or oregano and the bay leaf. When all the lamb is in the pot, pour on a good slurp, about a ¼ cup, of sherry, port or vermouth. Let this bubble up and continue to cook over a very gentle heat while you prepare the carrots, capsicums and tomatoes (blanched), adding them to the pot as they are ready. Season with salt and pepper and add the stock or water. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat, cover the pot and cook as gently as possible on top of the stove or in a very low oven, about 120C, or 1½ hours. Add the drained and rinsed chickpeas after 1 hour of cooking. Check the pot from time to time and add a little more liquid if needed, or if there is too much liquid, remove the lid of the pot to allow evaporation.
- Remove the stew from the heat or oven when the meat is very tender. Just before serving, check the seasoning and stir in the parsley. Serve with boiled potatoes and a green vegetable. Serves 4-6.