Monday, 17 September 2012

Mediterranean Lamb Stew

So, after having played guitar for a few years and then given it up to pursue other worthy projects, I picked it up again on a suggestion from my mother, Mrs Ribeye Sr, who said to me: 'why don't you play the guitar any more? You used to be fantastic'. I love mums. They're always there to puff you up - even if what they say is an utter (but very nice and non-self serving) lie. Frankly, we could do with a few more mums and a few less Oxbridge morons in Parliament.

So how is my guitar playing, honestly? The funny thing, after a bit of a shaky start - where even the strumming of a few basic chords was a bit of a nightmare - I think I'm loving it even more now than ever. I think it's because I'm secretly treating my playing standard as 'absolute beginner', but also 'someone who can miraculously play some cool songs and funky riffs by ear'; which means that I have fooled myself into believing I am a GUITAR PRODIGY!!!

If I had played continuously for the last few years, I probably wouldn't be miles better than I am now, and my then wife would (rightly) ask me 'whether I really ought to see if I'm world class at something else'. But this way, she is being all encouraging and supportive - except when I ask her to sing along with my four chord rendition of  A Horse with No Name. On the hour, every hour.

Anyway, the reason for this news of picking up neglected old habits again, is to say that I resurrected a dish I used to make all the time, and which I did get bored with for a bit from over indulging, but which now is all new and delicious once more. This lamb stew takes the cheapest, fattiest cut of lamb and makes it into a proper dinner party dish with a most exotically rich flavour.

Having scouted my local supermarket for a bargain cut of meat for Saturday night's dinner, I spotted a likely contender: Lamb shoulder on offer at £5 per kilo? Yes please. I served my Home-made Houmous with pitta bread as a starter, and our friends Axel and Dali came over for a right middle eastern feast. In fact, Dali IS middle eastern and told me that my dinner tasted just like his mum's cooking. I hope that this is a compliment.(a son's relationship with his mother truly is a two-way 'puffing-up' street).

Oh, one last thing; this dish seems like a lot of work, but it isn't. Apart from a bit of chopping and a quick gathering of a number of dried herbs and spices, this dish is no harder to make than any regular casserole. The key is to always have a large store cupboard full of dried herbs and spices. Go on; go shopping now!

Thanks to my bargain lamb find, this dish cost me a fantabulous £2 per serving. Serve with fragrant basmati rice. It may not be authentic middle eastern, but it's perfect with this stew.

Serves 4


1 kg lamb shoulder, on the bone
3 tablespoons of olive oil
3 carrots, finely chopped
3 celery sticks, finely chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons of flour
125ml white wine
1 x 400g can of chickpeas in water
1 x 400g can of plum tomatoes in juice
500ml water
1 tablespoon each of ground coriander, cumin, dried oregano and dried mint
1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
1 cinnamon stick
3 bay leaves
Handful of fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped

Basmati rice to serve

Preheat oven to 150c. In a large casserole pot, fry the lamb shoulder in the olive oil until well browned and remove from the pot. Add the carrots, celery, onion and garlic to the pot and stew until soft. Sprinkle in the flour to avoid lumps and add the wine, chickpeas, tomatoes and water and then return the lamb to the pot. Stir in the herbs and spices and place the pot in the oven to cook for 4-5 hours, or until the meat is falling off the bone. With a spoon or ladle, skim the oil off the top of the sauce and serve the stew with rice or pasta, garnishing liberally with fresh parsley.

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