Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Lamb, Lentils and Lemons

"A Confession: watching almost any animal for long enough makes me wonder how it tastes." -Andrew Beahrs, Twain's Feast

Tis the season for lamb -new lambs are being born now, and last year's lambs have just been butchered. The reality of home raised food is that our meat has a face. I've spent the last two days packaging lamb for the freezer, and thinking of all the different and delicious ways to cook and serve lamb: roast leg of lamb, lamb chops (we had some last night for dinner and they were delicious!), lamb shanks, lamb burgers, shepherds pie, lamb curries, and lamb stews. I made a dozen packages of cubed lamb -and thought of stews. Lamb goes well with lentils -they're paired frequently in many ethnic recipes- and I plan to make these three variations on lamb and lentil stew starting with the Mediterranean-style tonight. They all begin with the same base of browned lamb, onions, broth and lentils, and finish with the addition of lemon juice. The variation is in the spices (and vegetables) added, and the possibilities seem almost endless.

Lamb, Lentils and Lemon Stews
To make in a crock-pot, heat a large skillet or caste iron pan. To make in a pressure cooker, or an enameled Dutch oven, heat and add:
2 T. olive oil
Add and brown:
1 1/2 lbs. cubed lamb stew meat (with or without bones)

Add and cook a few minutes:
3 minced or sliced garlic cloves
1 c. chopped onion or leeks
1 chopped carrot

1 c. dried green lentils
2 c. stock or water
1/2 - 1 t. salt
1/8 - 1/4 t. ground black pepper

For Mediterranean-style (adapted from allrecipes.com) add:
14 oz. can or 1 pint jar diced tomatoes
1/2 t. each Italian seasoning, dried thyme, sage and basil

For Curried-style (adapted from Molly Wizenberg) add:
1-2 T. curry powder
1-2 t. garam masala

For Moroccan-style (adapted from Lorna Sass) add:
8-10 pitted prunes
1 t. cumin
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. garam masala
1 lb. eggplant, peeled and cubed

For cooking in a pressure cooker, lock on the lid and bring to high pressure. Cook for 12 minutes then allow to drop naturally. If using an enameled Dutch oven, simmer covered until lentils are tender, about 30 minutes. To make in a crock-pot, brown meat, add the rest of the ingredients, and cook on low for 8-10 hours. Stir in 1-2 T. lemon juice to taste before serving. Serve with additional lemon wedges and if desired, any of the following toppings of choice: sliced green onion, yogurt and minced mint, or crumbled feta cheese. Vegetables can also be added during cooking: potatoes or Swiss Chard added with the lentils, or spinach during last few minutes of the cooking time -or leave them and the carrots out. One can't go wrong with a stew of lamb and lentils.

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