Lola and Finn's Mum

Lola and Finn's Mum

Sunday, 23 October 2011

One of the best things about the colder weather: A stew in the oven - Italian Lamb Stew.

Those who know me know I am particular about weather. I hate 'nothing' weather, where it's just grey, dank, gloomy, leaves glued to pavements, I also find it difficult to stifle my irritation as waves and waves of rain come in off the Atlantic and soak me. I understand it is a necessary evil, but seriously, you can keep your rain. Give me a hosepipe ban in Summer over a day in August watching the raindrops tap tap tap the windows.  However, the redeeming feature of living in England in the Autumn is the return of the stew, and it is a return that never gets old.  Blowing a gale and swirling rain outside? Check. Fire in in the front room? Check. Stew blipping away doing its thing on the stove or in the oven? Check.

I have adapted this recipe from Olive Magazine and suited it to my purpose. My hindrances were a lack of celery (which when I have to use, I have to blitz with the onion in my mini processor as my better half really dislikes the stuff. If he can't see it, he doesn't know it) a non functioning oven (it's ok now) and horror, the demise of the rosemary supply in my garden. I substituted thyme and oregano and it was perfectly fine. For that reason, I have put optional or put my additions in the recipe.

Do use olives. I think the stew needs them. The stew had a sweetness which though not unpleasant was tempered by the addition of the olives which don't taste as strong when cooked through. The effect was a rounding off of the flavours which left a tasty, warming dish. And if you ask me, the only accompaniment to have with this is mashed potato. A mountain of it.

The quantities here serve 12, but I divided the recipe by approximately two thirds for the four of us, rounding up ingredients rather than down where necessary. I did use two onions though, to make up for the lack of celery in my version and the fact that as a household, we are onion fiends.

2½ kg boneless lamb shoulder, excess fat trimmed         
4 tbsp flour, well seasoned for dusting
3 tbsp olive oil
3 onions chopped
4 stalks celery , diced (optional)
4 carrots , peeled and diced     (I used 2)                                      
4 garlic cloves , sliced (I used 2)
2 tbsp chopped rosemary leaves (or 2 tsp thyme and 2 tsp oregano, plus some parsley stalks)                                    
350ml white wine   (I used about 125ml)                                                                                            
2 x 400g tins plum tomatoes (I used 1 tin for the four of us)
20 black olives , pitted (I used the twenty, but I like olives!)
2 lemons , zested and juiced (I used 1 small lemon)
A small bunch flat-leaf parsley , chopped


1. Heat the oven to 160C/fan 140C/gas 3, if using the oven. Cut the lamb into chunks and dust with the flour. Heat 1 tsp of the oil in a large casserole dish. Brown the meat all over in batches. Pour in the remaining oil, onions, celery, carrots, garlic and rosemary. Season and cook for 10 minutes. Add the wine, tomatoes and meat and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for 2-3 hours.

(Alternatively, if using the top of the oven, follow the same instructions, then when the stew reaches the simmer point, cover and reduce the heat to low/medium and cook on a blip for about one and a half, two hours. Keep checking to make sure the stew is not boiling dry. After about an hour and a half I removed the lid and upped the heat to reduce the moisture in the stew a little).

2. Stir in the olives and lemon juice, sprinkle with the lemon zest and parsley and serve (with mashed potato or accompaniment of your choice)

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