I’m not really a stew person. I wouldn’t even rest my eye on stew if it was on a menu; I’d skip right past it without it even entering my consciousness. I don’t really know why that is. There is absolutely no reason why I shouldn’t like a hearty and rustic stew. I mean, those two descriptors appear in my index of preferred food styles. They even figure in the remit of my blog, ergo ‘Stew’ and I ought to be the best of friends. So I thought it was time for Stew and me to spend a little time together.
OK, this is more of a braise than a stew (they’re pretty much the same anyway, eh?), but I’d seen a similar recipe to the one below by Nigel Slater and really liked the sound of the combination of flavours. Of course, I was on board with the idea of marinating lamb in a whole bottle of wine, but the addition of orange and chilli was intriguing. As soon as you get all these flavours going in the marinade it is so aromatic. Our flat was fragrant with the smell of lamb languishing in orange, garlic and red wine for the entire day before I cooked this, which really got us salivating. What a teaser of a dish!
The great thing about this meal is that all the hard work is done 24 hours before you sit down to eat. Once everything is in the marinade, it’s just a question of transferring the ingredients in their turn from the bowl to the casserole and then letting them all bubble lazily until the meat is collapsing and the braise is dark and sticky. It would be great for a lazy Sunday lunch. Just picture yourself with the Sunday papers, a glass of red wine and a warm bowl of aromatic braised lamb. Come on… life is good, isn’t it?
For two people
- 300g dried cannellini beans
- 1 large or 2 small lamb shanks
- 2 small onions, cut into segments
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 stalks of celery, sliced
- 1 large or 2 small sweet potatoes, cut into chunks
- 4 or 5 cloves of garlic, peeled and squashed
- 1 large or 2 small dried chillies
- an orange
- a bottle of red wine
- olive oil or lard
- a handful of mushrooms, quartered
- a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
Soak the beans in cold water overnight. Put the lamb, onions, bay leaves, celery, sweet potatoes, garlic and chilli and few peppercorns in a large bowl. Peel a few lengths of orange peel with a potato peeler and add to the dish, along with the rest of the orange, sliced. Pour over enough red wine to cover the lamb. Set aside overnight, somewhere cool, though it doesn’t need to be in the fridge.
The next day when you’re ready to start cooking, drain the beans and bring them to the boil in a pot of water, then boil them hard for fifteen minutes. Cover and turn off the heat. Put a few good lugs of oil in a large heavy-based casserole (enough to cover the bottom). When it starts to sizzle, lift the lamb out of its marinade and add to the pan. Leave for a minute of two until it’s brown on one side. Turn it over and brown the other side.
Lift out with draining spoon, then add the remaining ingredients from the marinade and the mushrooms. Cook for a good ten minutes or until they have softened.
Pour in the wine from the marinade, plus the rest of the bottle and then add the drained beans. Bring to the boil over a medium heat, turning it down just before it actually boils.
Add the balsamic vinegar and the lamb, cover the pot with greaseproof paper (which is a good way to stop the liquid evaporating) and a lid. Leave to simmer gently for about an hour and a half. Check the meat for tenderness – it should just fall off the bone. The beans should be very soft too.
Take off the lid and paper, turn up the heat and cook at a vigorous bubble for about ten to fifteen minutes until the sauce has thickened slightly. Check the seasoning and serve in bowls with chunks of crusty bread and a bottle of red.