I’ve been cooking seriously for a long time, and I love winter because of the chance it offers the cook to play around with stews, daubes, carbonnades and the rest of the slow-cooked meat and vegetable composite repertoire. I have never been able to reproduce the perfect boeuf à la bourguignonne that I enjoyed in France fifty years ago, though I do try again each winter. There’s always just something missing.
But I came across a fantastic lamb stew in the Newsletter that goes to HCF members. The Newsletter always offers a recipe, and I try a lot of them, because they are ‘healthy’, meaning that salt and sugar are in small quantity. This one was called ‘Slow cooker Spanish lamb with beans’, and though I don’t have a slow cooker I am used to slow cooking, either in the oven or on top of the stove. What makes this recipe different is the addition of some chorizo sausage. Because I had some on hand, I added some broad beans, and they gave a little colour contrast to what is otherwise an orange-coloured stew. I made a lot, and it was eaten with applause on three different occasions. The recipe calls for cannellini beans; I used butter beans because that was what I had in the pantry. They were fine. I used chicken stock, not beef, again because I had it there. My dish had no zucchini, because I didn’t have any available.
2 tbs olive oil
2 onions, sliced
1/2 red capsicum, diced
1 chorizo sausage, diced (I used the mild version)
800g diced lamb
2 cups beef stock
4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbs balsamic vinegar
sprinkle of dried oregano
pepper to taste
3 tbs tomato paste
1 zucchini, sliced
2 carrots, peeled and sliced thinly
200g broad beans, shelled
1 can cannellini or butter beans
If you have a slow cooker, set it to 6-8 hours.
Then sauté the sliced onion in some of the olive oil for five minutes, or until softened. Add the onions to the pot you are going to use. Now sauté the chorizo slices and the capsicum, and add them to the pot. Make sure that the diced lamb is dry. I used paper towels to dry the lamb, for the meat won’t brown properly if it is wet. Use the rest of the oil as you brown the meat on both sides, when it is ready for the pot too.
Now add to the pot the stock, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, balsamic vinegar and the oregano. Cook for four hours. If you’re doing this on top of the stove, the trick is to cook at a temperature that allows a small bubble to hit the surface of the liquid every now and then. The French verb is frémir, to shiver or tremble, which is exactly right. The dish is NOT to boil. If cooking is to take place in the oven, the temperature should be set below boiling, say 90 degrees C or even less, though get the dish to just short of boiling before you start timing.
Four hours later, check everything. Add the tomato paste, the zucchini, the thinly sliced carrots, the broad beans and the drained butter beans. Cook for a further two hours. Check the taste again. Pepper? Salt? The vinegar and Worcestershire sauce combination, plus the chorizo, give the flavour a wonderfully savoury taste.
The dish is filling, and since it has beans you don’t really need the accompaniment of potatoes or rice. As with all good stews, it doesn’t hurt the outcome if you do all this cooking the day before, and reheat the dish for dinner the next evening. These quantities are for six hearty diners. We fed eight in all, and there was still a little left over.
It freezes beautifully, too. I’ll make it again in a few weeks, using the zucchini next time. It is not your bourguignonne or carbonnade, but it stacks up with the best of those classics, I think.
My other recipe essays include:
http://donaitkin.com/mushroom-and-smoked-salmon-risotto/ I think this is most-viewed essay on my website!