It’s late March and no one heeds the snow flurries that still furtively sprinkle the city. Winter always draws too long in New York, we know, we grumble, we long for spring, for sunshine warm enough to cut through the chill, for blossoms, for green!
Looking for distractions some flee south, others hide out, I make stew. This one will briefly delude with the promise of travel, or dupe into enjoying the lingering cold.
I modify this recipe constantly. I have added spices, forgotten the prunes, used ground ginger… It is meant to be played with. It took me a while to get perfect, melt-in-your-mouth consistency, but this is it. The cooking method was inspired by April Bloomfield’s lamb curry.
3 lbs boneless lamb shoulder
4 onions (red and or yellow)
4 garlic cloves
Fresh ginger, a piece approximately 1 x 2 inches long
2 tsps turmeric
1 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 cinnamon stick
1 dried chili
1 bay leaf
A generous handful dried prunes
A generous handful blanched almonds
Preheat oven to 300°F (150°C).
Cut the meat into 2 x 2 inch chunks, season with salt, and brown assertively in a little olive oil in a heavy saucepan (with lid) or dutch oven, a few pieces at a time (about 5 to 7 minutes per batch). Set meat aside.
Peel and chop the onions into large-ish (1/2 inch) pieces. Cook in the meat fat (unless it is burned, in which case discard the fat and use more olive oil) until the onions start to turn golden, stirring occasionally and adding oil if necessary.
Meanwhile peel and slice the garlic. Peel and grate the ginger. Crush the fennel seeds in a mortar. Thinly slice the chili. First peel the lemon, then juice it.
Add the garlic to the onions, stir and cook for a few minutes, then stir in the spices: ginger, fennel, turmeric, chili, cinnamon, chili, bay, and lemon rind. Stir a few times to combine well.
Place the lamb pieces on top of the onions mixed with spices, sprinkle the lemon juice over the meat, add just enough water to cover the meat, close the lid, and place in the oven.
Cook for 2 hours at 300°F (150°C), stirring occasionally. Add the prunes after 1 1/2 hours.
Lower the oven temperature to 250°F (120°C), and cook for another hour. Add almonds 1/2 hour before the end.