Few people cook with lamb on a regular basis, and I really think it’s a shame. It’s almost unheard of to confine lambs, which means that the vast majority of them eat a natural diet of grasses. The meat and fat from grass-fed animals has many healthy components that are frequently lacking in conventionally farmed animals. More exercise, more sunlight, and a natural diet for a lamb means a healthier fat profile and more zinc, selenium, omega-3s, and CLA for you.
If you have been overlooking lamb, start with this simple stew of lamb shoulder and vegetables. The method is a braise, which I have outlined here many times before and requires minimal effort up front. The stew will then simmer for several hours, occasionally attended, and in the end you will be rewarded with a dinner rich in both flavor and nutrition.
Simplest Lamb and Vegetable Stew:
2 # lamb shoulder trimmed of outer fat and cut into 2-3” chunks
2 Tbsp. olive oil or other fat
1 bunch spring onions (or 1 medium onion), large dice
2 stalks celery, large dice
1 medium carrot, large dice (or a dozen baby carrots)
3 large cloves garlic, sliced
2 Tbsp, tomato paste
1 C. dry white wine (red is fine, too)
2 C. (approx.) broth or stock
1 sprig fresh rosemary
S & P
Heat a dutch oven or other large, heavy pot over medium heat. While it gets hot, season the lamb chunks generously with salt and pepper. Place the fat in the pan, allow it to heat, and then brown the lamb chunks in 2 batches until the chunks are lightly browned on 2 sides. Remove from the pan and set aside until all the lamb is browned.
Add the onion, celery, and carrot to the pan, season with salt, and saute for approximately 5 minutes until slightly softened. Add the tomato paste and stir to combine while allowing the tomato paste to caramelize a bit, just a minute or two. Add the wine to deglaze, scraping up and browned bits from the pan. Place the rosemary sprig on the bottom of the pan and then nestle the lamb chunks down into the pan, into as even of a layer as possible. Pour the broth or stock over to almost cover the meat. A few little bits sticking out here and there are fine.
Increase the heat and bring the stew to a strong simmer. Cover the pot and reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer the stew for 3 hours total, checking every hour to be sure that the liquid is lightly bubbling and to give it a stir. The lamb is done when the chunks are easily broken apart with a wooden spoon.
You might serve the stew with roasted, boiled, or mashed potatoes, with creamy polenta, or with a loaf of your favorite bread. The stew will reheat beautifully if made a day or two in advance.