THIS RECIPE IS FULLY ENDORSED BY THE DOG. SHE THINKS IT’S THE BEST THING SINCE BUNNY RABBITS.
It’s spring. What better way to celebrate than to eat a cute lamb? A friend of mine gave me the link to this remarkably simple recipe. My adopted little brother gave me some lamb.
Voila’! It was amazing. It was so delicious that I feel compelled to share it here, with my edits because I am totally incapable of following a recipe. I have to tinker with it; it’s endemic.
Find some lamb. This recipe is for a kilo (about 2 pounds), which is double the original. Yeah, it was so good that the second time I made it I doubled the recipe so we would have leftovers. So:
- 1 kilo of lamb, cut into ~1 inch cubes. Can be bigger, or smaller. Whatever. Cut it up for stewing.
- 4 onions, minced
- 1 large spoonful of minced garlic. I cheat and used the store-bought kind. If you’re chopping cloves I’d guess about 4 large ones
- 4 bay leaves
- 500 grams/4 ounces pancetta (or bacon if you can’t find pancetta, the thicker and better quality the bacon, the better) cut into small strips
- A bottle of red wine. The more rich and full bodied it is, the better your stew will be
- 800 g/2 cans unflavored tomatoes – all I can find here is the whole peeled ones, so I chop them up before putting them in the stew
- Some maple syrup, or sugar, or strawberry jelly. Not preserves!
- A few spoonfuls of flour
- Thyme, a palmful
- Salt and pepper
Slowly cook the pancetta in the pot you intend to use for the stew until it is crisp and brown. This takes time and patience, but is well worth it because the slow cooking will melt the fat and that lovely stuff will add depth and flavor to your stew. If the bottom of the pan starts to burn before the pancetta is done, add some of the wine and stir it round to loosen the brown yummy stuff and let it cook off. Repeat this process until done. Remove from heat.
In a large bowl mix the flour, pepper, and thyme. Dredge the chunks of lamb in this mixture until each piece is well-coated, and fry them in small batches in very hot oil until brown on all sides. As each batch is done, toss it in the stewpot on top of the bacon. When you’re finished with the lamb, you can re-use the frying pan to cook the onions and garlic in. Sautee them slowly until translucent and maybe a little brown. Add them to the meat.
Put the stew on heat, add the tomatoes – juice and all – and then enough wine to cover it all, and mix it up gently. Put the lid on, bring it to a fast simmer, then lower the heat until it’s just barely simmering and walk away for an hour and a half or so. It really needs at least two hours to cook it or it won’t taste right. Trust me on this.
Come back later and taste it. Add some sweetener – maple syrup or strawberry jelly is best, but you can use sugar, just add it a little at a time to counter the acidity of the canned tomatoes. Keep tasting it until it’s right. Salt and pepper as you wish. Let it cook until you can’t stand it anymore and then serve.
I paired it with roasted carrots, Brussels sprouts and potatoes, and the rest of the wine. Heel, heel lekker!
[Editor’s note – Two crucial things to ensure the success of this recipe: it HAS to simmer for at least two hours. I’ve made it twice now and both times it did not reach the state of wonderfulness that makes us want to roll around in the stuff until 2 hours had passed. It needs an hour minimum after you add the sweetener. The sweetener is also crucial if you are using canned tomatoes. Carel tasted the stew before I added the maple syrup, and made a face. “Ew. Very metallic!” Yeah. And that’s using the tomatoes in a lined can. You absolutely need to counter that flavor or you will have wasted a couple pounds of very costly meat. So. Sweetener, and time. Use both. It will fail if you don’t.]
Otherwise more prosaically known as venison stew. I adapted a recipe I found online. These are the ingredients I used:
- 1 kilo boned venison shoulder
- 2 tbsp oil
- 2 onions, peeled and roughly chopped
- 150g piece smoked streaky bacon or pancetta diced
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
- 1 tbsp plain flour
- 1 can Champignon ragout (or cream of mushroom soup)
- 1 package sliced mushrooms
- 300ml dark beer
- 2 tsp soft light brown sugar
- 1 or 2 bay leaves
- 2 sprigs of thyme
- a few squirts of balsamic cream
- salt, pepper, and chili oil
- 500g potatoes, the kind that dissolve when you cook them long enough
- Roasted baby carrots and mash, to serve
I cut the venison up into 1 inch cubes, and seared them over high heat with the oil, then reserved it to a bowl.
Then I minced the onion, and sauteed them slowly in the same pan until translucent, and a little brown. Then the pancetta. And then tossed the whole mess into the bowl with the meat.
Into a large, heavy bottomed stainless steel pot went the mushroom ragout. I rinsed out the sautee’ pan with a little beer, and poured it into the pot. You don’t want to miss out on all the yummy brown stuff! Then I dumped in the meat/onion/pancetta mixture, then the sliced mushies. While stirring I added the flour a little at a time, then the sugar, then poured in enough beer to just cover it all.
- VERY IMPORTANT! This stew is only going to be as good as the beer you use. Find the best, richest, heaviest, darkest, most alcoholic beer you can get your hands on. Something made by Belgian monks is a good choice. Guinness would work too, but you want something a little sweeter if you can get it.
Add the thyme, bay leaf, pepper, and a little salt. Bring to a slow boil and then reduce to the barest simmer, cover, and walk away for an hour or so. Then add the balsamic cream, and chili oil to taste. Stir it, and correct as you think is good. Add the potatoes. Cover it and let it cook for at least another 2 hours. Sometimes during that, come back and mush up the potatoes so that they are reduced to flour. This will thicken your stew perfectly. If you don’t want to use potatoes, you can use flour or corn starch, but becareful and add it a little at a time, stirring a lot and allowing the flour to absorb liquid before you add more. You don’t want to turn it into glop.
Total cooking time: about 3.5 hours for it to come out right.
I served this with roasted carrots and mashed potatoes:
- Cut up a bunch of baby carrots by slicing them lengthwise. Toss with olive oil and salt, spread in a single layer in a baking sheet, and pop into a 400 degree oven (200C) until brown and yummy. Roasting brings out the carroty flavor in a marvelous way.
- Boil 500g potatoes (the right kind – in The Netherlands there are so many kinds of potatoes you really have to be careful! Here, you need the “vast” or “solid” potatoes for this) until you can easily pierce them with a fork. Drain them, throw in some butter, mash them, add a little roasted garlic – I use the kind that comes in a jar because I’m lazy – and some milk or cream, salt and pepper, and mash until they are the consistency you want them. Cover and let rest for 5 mins while you assemble the meal.
If you made only enough stew for one meal, right before serving, add a big bag of spinach and stir it in. The heat of the stew will cook the leaves just right. If you made enough to have leftovers, don’t do that, cos the spinach will turn yucky when you re-heat it. Instead, pack the bowls you intend to serve the stew in with spinach, and then ladle the meat over it. Wait a few minutes and stir it up.
- This will add visual interest to an otherwise really boring looking bowl, it tastes good, and spinach is really good for you!
Enjoy! This is really, really good, and very easy!
Turn the oven on very low, set out an oven-proof dish that will hold all your stuff, pasta included and then…Make Stuff. Once you have made Stuff, put it in the oven-dish, and cover it up. Here’s one version of the Stuff you can make to go in this.
Boil a bag or two of fresh pasta, or if you’re feeling adventurous, make your own. I’m generally way too lazy for that, but it’s unquestionably going to be yummier if you make your own. Well, if you’re any good at making pasta, anyway. When it’s cooked to just slightly less than the softness you prefer, drain it and toss it in a bowl with some butter or olive oil, just enough to coat it and keep it from sticking together. Put it in the covered oven dish. In the oven.
Sautee’ a pile of cut-up fresh mushrooms in butter or olive oil, salt and pepper, and maybe some white wine (or red, if you don’t mind purple mushrooms). I think the wine gives a lovely flavor so it I use it if I have some. Pour in the wine and cover the ‘shrooms, letting them simmer until tender. Remove the lid and raise the heat, cooking off the liquid. Using a slotted spoon, remove the mushrooms. Put them in the covered oven dish.
In the same pan, pour in a bunch of carrot rounds and peas. Cook the same way as the mushrooms, until the carrots attain the desired level of softness and the peas are tender. I like to brown the carrot slices a little, so I turn up the heat just toward the end. Put them in the covered oven dish.
While you’re doing all this, in a small pan slowly cook some really good bacon, sliced into lardons. If you’re Dutch, use the bacony-bits (spekreepjes) you can get at Albert Heijn. They’re awesome in this stuff. When the bacon is good and browned but not crumbly – cook it slowly! – remove it from the pan with a slotted spoon and then cook some diced onion in the bacon fat. Remove both items to the covered oven dish.
Cube some meat. I’ve tried chicken, Aimee has tried pork. I bet this would be completely fabulous with shrimp, or some filets mignon. Cut into 1-2 inch cubes, and sautee in a stainless steel pain with some butter (Butter. Not olive oil, this time. Butter!), salt, pepper, and thyme. As a gauge: For two chicken breasts, I use about a level teaspoon of dried thyme. Sautee until nicely browned, and remove from pan, dividing it into whatever bowls you’re planning to serve your meal in. Turn the heat down, deglaze the pan with a generous amount of cognac, then pour in some heavy cream. If you’re making this for two people I’d use about half a cup. Lengthen it a little with some half and half, sour cream, yogurt, or creme fraiche. Stir in some mustard – a generous teaspoon at least, some salt and pepper, and turn up the heat, stirring constantly until the cream is thick, slow pouring, and richly brown. (Caveat: if your chicken didnt leave enough browny stuff on the bottom of the pan to turn the sauce brown, then add a little more mustard for flavor and carry on anyway). Salt and pepper to taste.
Take your pan out of the oven, and distribute pasta, bacon and vegetables over the chicken cubes, pour the cream sauce over the lot and toss it until everything is creamy and coated and delicious. This is not a particularly attractive looking meal, so I didn’t photograph it, but…be prepared to over-eat.
You can vary the Stuff any old way. If you’re low-carbing, you should skip the pasta and add more veggies, like broccoli and cauliflower. Zucchini. Sweet peppers. Use whatever veggies you have on hand – that’s how this was born:
..oO( what’s in the fridge that needs using up? )