My husband loves lamb stew. In all honesty, I think it’s because it reminds him of goat stew, something we both become fond of while vacationing in Anguilla. Can’t say that I’ve ever have (or would eat) goat stew on a regular basis, but in the Caribbean it’s as common as fish sandwich and incredibly tasty. That said, my lamb stew recipe is a nod to that dish we had long ago and a flavorful, hearty comfort food prefect for cold wintery nights.
Like beef stew, lamb stew is also considered a peasant dish typically made with the cheapest, most readily available ingredients. Lamb stew is also called Irish stew and reflects the history of Ireland itself.
In Ireland, sheep provided wool for warm clothing, milk for drinking, cheese making, and eventually, meat, after the animal reached the end of its productive years. The root vegetables added flavor and thickening power, as well as filling sustenance. Some turnips, parsnips, carrots and barley were added, but purists say true Irish stew contains only meat, potatoes and onions.
When the Irish began immigrating to the United States in the mid-1800’s many food traditions came with them and hearty stew was one of them. Sheep was not as plentiful in America, so cooks substituted beef and other more readily available meats.
The classic recipe further evolved in the New World, and stew itself became more gourmet when wine started replacing some of the stock used and garlic and fresh herbs got incorporated. where contemporary versions include ingredients such as stout beer and dumplings.
Simple or fancy, Irish or not, you can almost always find lamb stew on restaurant menus for St. Patrick’s Day. This hearty lamb stew is a simple yet reliable dish that is pleasing to the palate. Served as is or with a large slice of Irish soda bread does the trick honoring my Irish roots on St. Patty’s Day but also on a cold snowy winter night.
Lamb Stew With Israeli Couscous
- For the Lamb Stew:
- 1 1/2 pounds lamb shoulder, trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes
- 2 tablespoons Extra Virgin olive oil
- salt, to taste
- pepper, to taste
- 2 carrots, peeled and small dice
- 1/2 cup yellow onion, small dice
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 11/2 teaspoons fresh ginger, peeled and minced
- 1 cup pomegranate juice
- 1 cup red wine
- pinch of saffron
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, stems removed, minced
- 5 cups good quality chicken stock/broth
- 1 tablespoon molasses
- pomegranate seeds, for garnish
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
- For the Pearl Couscous:
- 1 1/2 cup chicken stock/broth
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon saffron
- 2 teaspoons Extra Virgin olive oil
- 1 cup Israeli/pearl couscous
- Step 1 For the Lamb Stew: Season the lamb generously with salt and pepper. Place a Dutch oven over medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon of oil. When hot but not smoking, working in batches so the meat is not over crowded, add the lamb and sear for about 8 minutes until brown on all sides. Transfer to a plate and reserve.
- Step 2 Add the second tablespoon of oil and the carrots, sauté till tender, about 3 minutes. Add the onions, garlic, cumin, cayenne, and ginger and sauté for an additional 2 minutes. Add the pomegranate juice, wine and saffron and increase the heat to high. Continue cooking until the liquid has reduced to 1/2 cup, about 15 minutes.
- Step 3 Return the seared lamb to the pot including any juices that accumulated on the plate. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat the heat and allow to simmer, covered for 30 minutes. Uncover the stew and cook for 1 hour, skimming the top as needed until the lamb is tender and the liquid has reduced and thickened. Stir in the molasses and season to taste with salt and pepper. Keep warm.
- Step 4 For the Israeli Couscous: In a medium saucepan add the chicken stock, salt, saffron and olive oil and bring to a boil. Add the couscous, reduce the heat to low and cook until all the liquid has absorbed, about 8-10 minutes.
- Step 5 To serve, place a generous scoop of couscous in a serving bowl. Top with lamb stew. Garnish with pomegranate seeds and chopped parsley.
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