As promised, I hauled out my Crock-pot today. (Partly to celebrate the shiny new ones that are en route to Maureen and Theresa! I am heeding the request to post winners’ names. Sorry I’m so late.) And last night I pulled out a boneless leg of lamb that had been taking up altogether too much space in the freezer.
When outside it’s the same shade of grey all day long, so that you can’t tell what time it is until it begins to get dark at 4 o’clock, and the gritty snow and slush require you to halt the dog upon entering the house and wipe down his muddy paws every single time he has to go pee or sniff something, it puts me in the mood for a dark, sticky, robust, slow-cooked stew, preferably served over a mound of warm carbohydrates.
I’ve been thinking about braised lamb shanks, but this caught my eye as I flipped through magazines in the car on our drive home. The original is done in a Dutch oven and calls for raisins and figs, but I opted to stick with just figs, which aren’t as sweet as raisins; I imagine dried apricots would work well too. The lamb roast was cut into chunks, half of which are back in the freezer for a future experiment.
I browned and threw the meat/onion/stock component in at noon, and added the beans, carrots and figs at around 4. At 6ish I put a kettle on to boil and made couscous. (1 cup couscous to 1 1/4 cups boiling water; pour over the couscous in a bowl and top with a plate; leave for 10 minutes then fluff with a fork. I don’t even understand why they make instant couscous. Could it really be faster and easier?)
Mike loved this. I liked it more the deeper into the bowl I got; the combination of cinnamon and lamb has always been a little too Medieval for me. I can’t seem to shake the thought that it was once used to mask meat that had gone a little off. It makes lamb taste gamier to me. It was quite tasty though, and I imagine it will be more so tomorrow, and Thursday when I’ll be in Red Deer at dinnertime. This is another Great Thing about slow cookers in the winter: you can just lid the leftovers and set the whole thing outside, or in your garage, and plug it back in to rewarm the next night. (If you suspect any critters in your yard are cunning enough to access your slow cooker, hide it in the barbecue.)
Provided it’s cold enough, of course. Don’t try this in July. Or in Texas.
Middle Eastern Slow-Cooked Stew with Lamb, Chickpeas and Figs
adapted from Cooking Light Magazine
a drizzle of canola or olive oil
1 1/2 pounds boneless leg of lamb, trimmed and cubed
3 large onions, halved and thinly sliced
4-6 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 cinnamon stick
1 can less-sodium beef broth
1 19 oz. (540 mL) can chick peas, drained
1-2 cups baby carrots
1 cup dried figs, halved
salt and pepper
fresh mint, if you like
Slow-cooker version: heat a drizzle of oil in a skillet and brown the lamb in batches, without crowding the pan, transferring to the slow cooker as you go. (No need to cook them through, just brown them to add flavour.) Add a little more oil and then brown the onions and garlic; add to the slow cooker. Pour about 1/2 cup of water into the skillet and scrape up any browned bits; add to the slow cooker along with the ginger, spices and stock. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours. At around the 4 hour mark, add the chick peas, carrots and figs. When you’re ready to eat, season with salt and pepper and if you like, stir in some fresh mint (or scatter it on top).
Stovetop version: Heat a drizzle of oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat; sauté the lamb in batches until browned. Remove from pan and set aside; brown the onions. Add the garlic and 1/2 cup water; cook for a few more minutes, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan.
Return the meat to the pan along with the ginger and spices. Add the stock, cover, reduce heat and simmer for an hour. Stir in the chick peas, carrots, and figs; cover and simmer 20-30 minutes or until carrots are tender. Season with salt and stir in chopped fresh mint just before serving, or sprinkle it on top of each bowl.
Calories:310 (18% from fat)
Fat:6.2g (sat 1.8g,mono 2.5g,poly 0.6g)