This is a stew I made on Fire Island a couple of weeks back, I served it on a non traditional puree of parsnips. A dish like this you’d usually serve on Couscous but I had some parsnips and loved the idea of this spicy/sweet lamb stew over a luscious creamy puree of Parsnips. This recipe is an adaptation from one by David Tanis from his book Heart of the Artichoke, I made some minor alterations, I added the apricots and used less meat then he called for, which was totally random as I bought 2 1/2 pounds of lamb before I saw the recipe so I just made it with what I had and it worked out great, my thought is that the less meat the more saucy the stew. Up to you, the original recipe calls for 4 pounds.
Usually when you buy lamb stewing meat it is already cut into chunks, I suggesting going through and making sure the pieces are fairly uniform and not too huge.
In a large bowl toss the meat with a salt and freshly grated black pepper and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 325 F
Add 2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil in a large cast iron skillet (or whatever skillet you have I just think cast iron cooks the most evenly) over medium heat, add 2 Large Onions, roughly sliced into the hot oil, add a pinch of salt and a large pinch of Saffron, stir and let cook until the onions are soft and transparent – about 5-8 minutes.
Stir into this mixture a 2-4″ piece of fresh Ginger that has been peeled and chopped, 6-8 garlic cloves, smashed and chopped, 1 Cinnamon stick, 1 generous Teaspoon of Cumin and Coriander Seeds, 1 Tablespoon of ginger powder and 2 Teaspoons of Cayenne pepper (or two crushed hot peppers) . Stir to bring all the ingredients together and remove from heat.
Add to this mixture 1 cup of pitted prunes. 1/2 cup of raisins and 1/2 cup of organic dried apricots.
In a large dutch oven (or other oven proof pot with a lid) place the seasoned lamb, spread the onion mixture over the lamb and pour over it 1 Cup of Tomato Puree and 4 Cups of Water or Chicken Stock.
Cover with a lid or tight-fitting tin foil and place in the preheated oven (you could do tin foil and then the lid, but I think it’s really a bit much unless the lid is very ill-fitting. The point is you don’t want the mixture to lose moisture and dry out – you want a good seal). Cook for approximately 2 hours, when tested with a fork the lamb should be very tender, almost falling apart.
Remove from the oven and stir in an additional 1/2 cup each of Prunes and Apricots.
Raise the oven temperature to 400F and place the stew back in the oven uncovered for about 15 minutes. You want to thicken it and let the additional dried fruit to cook a little.
Remove from the oven and let sit for about 10 minutes. Stews always can be made a day before this only makes them better. When I made this the sauce was lovely and thick if your comes out thinner than you want or overly oily, skim the oil as best you can and pour the sauce (not the meat) in to a pot on the stove and simmer over medium heat until it thickens. If it starts to work your every nerve you could make a roux of butter and flour (2 of each) but it really shouldn’t come to this.
Taste the stew and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.
While the stew is cooking: peel and chopped into 2″ pieces about 1 pound of Parsnips, place them in a boiling pot of salted water and cook until soft.
Drain and put the Parsnip’s back into the pot over medium low heat add 4-6 Tablespoons of unsalted butter, stirring until the butter is melted, remove from heat and place in a blender (food processor works fine, but you get a smoother texture from the blender). Turn on the blender and process, slowly adding a stream of heavy cream (probably about 1/2 a cup) until the mixture is smooth, creamy and just barely pourable. Thick really creamy mashed potatoes.
Season generously with salt and pepper. Sometimes really late season parsnips can have a bitter after taste if you find this add some sugar until the bitter taste is gone.
Before serving in a small frying pan over medium add 1 Tablespoon of Olive Oil and 1 cup of raw Almonds, fry them, stirring often until golden brown – about 5-8 minutes. Remove from heat and dry on a kitchen rag or recycled paper towel. Place in a bowl and toss with salt and a little sugar.
Serve family style with the Lamb in one big bowl garnished with the Almonds and the Parsnip puree in another, add a tab of butter to the center of the puree.
Chopped Apricots and Prunes can also be served as a side dish or sprinkled directed onto the stew before serving.
This is a very hearty meal and not exactly what you think of as Summer time fare, but the great thing about stews is that you can make them the day before so the night your guests arrive you never have to turn the oven on just one burner!