I’m talking about a good stew or casserole. In this case lamb. This was at the request of the other half, wanting a stew, and rather than beef, I plumped for lamb.
Our local supermarket had some neck fillet suitable for long, slow cooking. I added to that two lamb chops. I don’t work to a recipe with stews. I’m sure many would say it would be best, but let’s face it; it’s chopped veg, meat, stock and slow cooking. Not rocket science. Never had a bad result yet.
However, I do have many years of experience to fall back on when it comes to putting together a dinner like this, compared to those that maybe new to cooking.
So for newbies, here is my recipe, along with some terrible one handed photography.
Preparation is best, although I usually play fast and loose. Normally, I would preheat an oven to 150C (fan) but given its low temperature, you can start the preheat closer to when it’s all ready to pop in the oven. Plus it saves of the electric. And chopping veg in advance can help, but you may find time to peel/chop each vegetable as each browns in the pan. Do what feels most comfortable for you.
1. In a bowl add at least 3 heaped tablespoons of plain flour, a couple pinches of salt, ground pepper and in this case I used some dried rosemary. But you could pair the herbs to suit the meat used. I added some Sweet Smoked Paprika too.
2. Chop the lamb neck, or preferred meat into large chunks. Dust in the flour mix to coat. In a heavy based pan (suitable for the oven) heat one of the following:
- A knob of butter and some oil (rapeseed or light olive oil), this will help stop the butter burning too quickly.
- Bacon lardons, gently heated to release the fat, spoon out lardons with a slotted spoon and reserve once cooked, and add a knob of butter if needed. I did this option this time.
Drop into the pan, some of the dusted meat and let it gently colour, turning when needed. Not frequently else it won’t colour. And not too many at a time, else it will take longer. Remove to a bowl and repeat until all seared and lightly browned.
3. I would preheat the oven now. Add some butter if needed to replenish pan, then add roughly chopped chunks of root vegetables. I use turnip, carrot, parsnips and potato. If the potatoes/carrots are cleaned well, you can leave the skins on. don’t chop too small. Over three hours, the veg will lose some of its size. I add a roughly halved and quartered onion at the end. Turn the veg now and then to get some caramelisation which will add sweetness to the stew. Add some pepper and seasoning.
4. Add two lamb stock cubes to about 1.5 litres of hot water. Or if you have those jelly type, pop two in the pot then add the water. You could also use fresh stock from the shop, or homemade if adventurous. Stock should just cover the vegetables. Here, if I have some of the dusting flour leftover, I add some just boiled water and whisk that flour till smooth. Tip this into the pan along with the rest of the stock and stir. It will help thicken the stock during cooking.
5. Return the meat and push into the stock, add the bacon lardons if used, and three bay leaves. Bring to the boil, then clamp on the lid and put in the oven for 3 hours.
6. As you get to 3 hours, if you want dumplings, make them now. 50g suet, 100g self raising flour, 4 or 5 tablespoons of cold water. Add seasoning and some rosemary or herbs if desired. Mix to a firm but soft dough and make into 8 rough balls.
You can see the stock has reduced by about an inch. If yours is still not thick, I will sometimes mash some of the potatoes against the pan side and stir to distribute. It will help add some body to the stock.
6. After 3 hours, remove from oven and stir. Add the dumplings and cook with the lid on if you like them soft, or lid off if you like them to crisp on top. Cook for 20 mins thereabouts.
7. Pour a glass of wine, plate up and enjoy.
Overall time to cook was about 3 and half hours. Given the slow cooking, the fat in the neck fillet renders almost fully, adding flavour to the stock. The meat is so tender. For me, this is winter on a plate, when it’s cold outside.
Does anyone have any favourites for winter dinners?