Quick 5 Ingredient Lamb Stew
Stew? What exactly is a stew? What makes it different from a soup? Is it different from meat with gravy sauce, or does it matter? Stew has a long history and can be found in many different cultures around the world. It is one of those meals associated with comfort and poor people mostly, but like most foods it has gone through a long and interesting history.
There are many versions of a stew but the simplest way to differentiate it from other broth based foods is the fact that stews have less liquid than soups. Stews are slowly cooked for several hours over low heat, so that the meat is cooked and tender. Along with the typically fatty, low cost and the least tender choices of meat or bones, vegetables are thrown in to cook over a long period of time.
There are several options on what to cook stews in but whatever way you may choose stews are cooked in pots with tight fitting lids. A crock pot is one of my favorites but other ways are in a dutch oven and large cast iron pots built for long periods of cooking over low heat.
I grew up eating several types of stew and i would never have believed they were a poor man's dish but as a mature person, i can see why they were classified as such. Some of my favorites included stew fish and grits, it was always popular, along with pea soup and dumpling as well as other bean based stews my mother made or bought, made with ham bone.
The meat choices of stews are normally fattier more marbled cuts of meat. The best choices depend on what you want in your stew.
- Chicken or poultry, fatty cuts of meat like thigh
- Lamb: store labeled stew meat or lamb shoulder
Some countries use goat, mutton and rabbit meat. There are a lot of other meats depending on the culture.
- Stock, vegetable, chicken, seafood, actually any type you have on hand is good
- Wine, red burgundy
- Potatoes, really any root vegetable
- Beans, lentils
There are lots of other vegetables used depending on what part of the globe you will be eating your stew in, it does really depend on the culture.
Roux vs flour coating
- Roux is well known in Cajun cooking. It is made by simply cooking equal parts of flour in butter. The shade of the roux depends on what you are looking for and want to make. The advantage is you have a thick, rich gravy that is substantial.
- Flour coating is simpler, all you have to do is roll or dust the meat with flour and browned in a little bit of oil in a hot skillet. The advantage is that you have enough flour to give you a thicker sauce without too much flour, if that is your preference.
- Or nothing at all, in a non stick pan with a little of oil brown your meat. The advantage to this is that it is healthy, but you will have to make sure that the liquid boils down low.
Cornstarch or arrowroot can also be used as a thickener if you prefer.
- Bay leaves
There are other spices that actually change the flavor of the stew even though the basics are the same. The spices that you choose give you a distinctive type of stew of different cultures, like cardamon and cumin would make a basic stew more like a Moroccan type.
My basic recipe is quick and simple, it uses five ingredients at the most and can be done within a few hours of cooking. No all day cooking is needed but at least two hours of low simmering is recommended, so that the Lamb is tender enough to be enjoyed.
The step where you use flour to dust the meat is entirely up to you, it depends on whether i want a thicker gravy or not.
What you will need:
1 lb of lamb meat 1/2 inch to 1 inch cut
1 can of tomatoes, diced or whole depends on you, but i use diced
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, smashed to release flavor
1 cup of water
salt and pepper, i use a little cayenne
1 tbsp oil optional, olive oil or bacon grease
What to do:
- Clean and pat dry your meat or clean and dust meat with flour, the choice is yours.
- Heat oil in pan, on medium to medium high heat to brown meat, if using flour be careful not to burn the flour. Use a non stick pan.
- After browning the meat on both sides, lower the heat, add the onions, cook a minute or less then add the water, tomatoes and the juice, cook for 10 minutes.
- Reduce the heat add the garlic, cover with a lid and simmer for an hour or until the liquid has been reduced by half.
Serve with white or brown rice, couscous or quinoa.
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