Lamb and Rhubarb Stew

This is just too good to be true, and too good not to share. The Hebrides produces the main ingredients so well. Mint and rhubarb grow in my garden, and there are sheep all around. The recipe is Persian, and this version comes from ‘Nightingales and Roses’ by Maryam Sinaiee. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 5 tbsp vegetable oil, or 50/50 oil and butter
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 400g lamb, off the bone and cut into large cubes
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 120g parsley, finely chopped
  • 50g fresh mint, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 3 stalks of rhubarb sliced into 2cm lengths
  • 2 tsp date syrup, or brown sugar

METHOD:

  • Heat 2 tbsp oil in a casserole dish, and lightly brown the onions. 
  • Turn up the heat a little and add the lamb, turmeric, salt and pepper, and fry until the meat is browned on all sides
  • Pour over boiling water, so that the meat is covered by around 2 cm of water. Simmer for an hour and a half. 
  • Heat the remaining oil in a frying pan, and cook the herbs for four to five minutes, until they start to darken. 
  • Add the flour, and continue to stir and cook for another three minutes or so. 
  • Add the herbs to the lamb stew and simmer for another half an hour, to make a thick minty stew. At this point, the stew can be set aside and can be finished another day. Just add the herbs, and then stir and freeze, and then do the half hour simmer on defrosting. 
  • Add the rhubarb and date syrup, stir it in and then cook the stew on a low heat for another 10 to 15 minutes. Don’t stir, as this will break up the rhubarb

Serve with rice. 

Stifatho – Greek beef stew with tiny onions

My recipe for Stifatho comes from The Home Book of Greek Cookery by Joyce M. Stubbs. I bought it in a jumble sale in 1987, and it has been in use ever since. There are many other versions online. The trickiest bit was to find small onions or shallots. Shallots grow well here. The ones in the shops are a bit too large, you are hoping to use shallots or onions about the size of a walnut.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1kg stewing steak, cut into portions about the size of half a post-card and 1cm thick
  • 1kg shallots or pickling onions
  • 200ml olive oil
  • 1 can of tomatoes
  • 200ml red wine
  • 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • salt and pepper

METHOD:

  • In a skillet, brown the meat in hot olive oil and put into a casserole dish.
  • Cover the meat with hot water, and stew gently in a moderate oven (140C) for an hour.
  • Using a soup wand, puree the tin of tomatoes, and add them to the meat, along with the peeled whole onions, garlic cloves, bay leaves, spices, red wine, wine vinegar, and the rest of the olive oil.
  • Bring the stew to a simmer, stir, cover with a lid and return to the oven for at least another two hours.
  • Once the meat is tender, and the sauce is rich and thick, take it out of the oven and set to one side. Check seasoning and add salt and pepper at this stage.
  • Cook some small potatoes, and serve with the stew. The stew could be served with mashed potatoes, or in small bowls with a side-serving of boiled potatoes.

Tas Kebab

I found this in an old book of Greek recipes, but when I researched it online, I found many variants. It is one of many Greek recipes that originated further east, and there are dishes by the same name in Iran and Turkey.

All of the recipes have in common a stew that is served with rice. I made it the way suggested in my book, with a bit more detail about how to add the rice. The quantities are quite large: once the rice is added this will serve around 10 people.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 kg stewing steak, cut into small pieces, around the size of the last joint of your thumb
  • 50g butter
  • 2 finely sliced onions
  • 1 can of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 wine-glass of vermouth (I used Noilly Prat)
  • 500ml hot water
  • 1 teaspoon dark brown sugar
  • A pinch of cinnamon
  • salt and pepper.
  • 500g basmati rice
  • Sliced carrots, optional extra.

METHOD:

  • In a heavy pan, melt the butter and add the sliced onions. Cook the onions slowly so they soften and begin to colour.
  • Add the tomatoes, cinnamon, sugar and season with salt and pepper.
  • Add the pieces of meat and add to the pan with the water, bring to a simmer and cook very slowly for a couple of hours.
  • Add the vermouth and set to one side.
  • Wash the rice in cold water then boil it in salted water for six minutes. Drain the rice and rinse through with cold water. If you are adding carrots, they can be chopped and cooked with the rice.
  • Put half the rice in the bottom of a casserole dish. Then add the stew, then the rest of the rice (you can do multiple layers like this, ending with a rice layer).
  • Put the casserole pan into the oven at around 130C and bake for an hour.

If you don’t want to cook it straight away, you can freeze the stew in portions. I allowed 100g of stew to 50g of rice to good effect.

Venison or beef with port, guinness and pickled walnuts

This is another recipe from Delia Smith’s Christmas recipe book. It is also available widely online. It is delicious. I serve it with mashed potato, or with potato mashed with celeriac.

The quantities below serve 10-12. It is easy to halve the quantities.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2.75 kg venison or beef, cut into flattish cubes around 3cm across
  • 1.2 litres of guinness
  • 275 ml ruby port
  • 2 bayleaves
  • 4 sprigs of thyme
  • 2 large onions, sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 400g jars of pickled walnuts, drained and quartered
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • salt and pepper

METHOD:

  • The night before, put the meat in a large plastic container with bayleaf, thyme, port and guinness. Seal the top and give the mixture a good shake. A good technique is to put the ingredients in a bowl with a small plate on the top to ensure all the meat is immersed.
  • The next day, pre-heat the oven to 140C.
  • Melt half the butter/oil in a casserole dish and heat gently. Drain the meat, reserving the marinade for later. Pat the meat dry before frying off in small batches, until it is browned. Take the meat from the pan as each batch cooks, and set it aside.
  • Add the rest of the butter and oil to the pan, and melt together over a moderate heat until it starts to bubble. Add the onions and brown this for around 8 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to fry for another couple of minutes
  • Return the meat to the casserole dish, stir in the flour, and then pour in the marinade, add the walnuts and season with salt and pepper.
  • Bring the casserole to a simmer, then put the lid on, and transfer the whole thing to the warm oven for 3 hours.

Beef Cheeks

We are working through the lower reaches of our freezer, and someone has given us beef cheeks. I am very keen on eating all of the animal, waste is a terrible thing.

Beef cheeks are tough, cheap and extremely tasty cuts of meat that need long cook times to make them tender. You could use shin of beef or venison for this recipe instead.

First off, I had to prepare the beef cheek. I started with about 600g of meat, but a lot of it was sheets of fat and connective tissue. I trimmed it, using a very sharp knife, and then cut the remaining sheets of meat into pieces about the size of half a post-card, and about 1 cm thick.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 600g ox/beef cheeks
  • seasoned flour, 2 tbsp
  • 2 tbsp olive oil or butter
  • 2 large Carrots, chopped
  • 2 sticks Celery, chopped
  • 1 Onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves Garlic
  • a dash Brandy
  • 300ml Red Wine
  • 1 clove
  • half tsp of ground cinnamon
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • 1 pinch of aniseed
  • 4 sprigs of time, or 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 can of tomatoes, blended
  • 2 Anchovies (you can buy these in a jar, in oil)
  • Salt and Black pepper
  • Flat Leaf Parsley, to serve.

METHOD:

Pre-heat the oven to 150 degrees celsius.

  • Trim the cheeks as described above, coat each piece with seasoned flour. Heat the oil in a large casserole dish, and brown the cheeks. Once they are done, remove from the pan and set aside.
  • Slice the onions, carrots, garlic and celery and cook in the same pan over a medium to low heat, until soft. Add a little more butter or olive oil if required
  • Once the vegetables are soft, increase the heat and add the meat back to the pan, with the can of pureed tomatoes. Mix to coat the ox cheeks and veg in the puree and bring to a simmer.
  • Add the wine, brandy, clove, cinnamon, thyme, bayleaves, aniseed and anchovies, and bring to a simmer. Put the pan into the oven to cook for 2 1/2 hours.You may wish to check that there is enough liquid in the pan half way; add stock or water if necessary
  • After 2 1/2 hours, check that the meat is tender, and turn the oven off, leaving the pan in the oven. Use this time to make mashed potatoes, cook any additional vegetables, have a cheeky wee glass of wine, and remember to warm the plates.

We had this with mashed potatoes, but the original recipe suggested polenta as an alternative. It was delicious.

Red cabbage and cannellini bean stew

I have been experimenting with this stew, and have come up with variations that are vegan, vegetarian or just general. I’ll leave it for you to decide how to go about it.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 25g pancetta, (optional)
  • 1 large carrot, finely chopped
  • 2 sticks celery, finely chopped
  • 1 small or half a large red cabbage
  • 2 cans tinned tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 sprig of thyme
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 tsp chopped rosemary leaves
  • 1/2 tsp chopped sage leaves (optional)
  • 1 can borlotti beans or cannellini beans
  • 1.75 litres of stock (vegetable or beef)

METHOD:

  • In a large pan, heat the olive oil and add the pancetta, onions, garlic, carrots and celery, and fry gently until the vegetables start to brown slightly.
  • Add the cabbage, tomatoes and thyme, stir and cook until the cabbage is tender.
  • Add the stock, the can of beans including liquid, 1 tsp salt and a good amount of black pepper, as well as the other herbs. Cook over a very low heat for two hours, keeping a check to make sure it is not sticking.
  • Once the stew is cooked, check for seasoning, and add extra stock if it seems to need it.

This recipe is based on several others, some of which use Italian black kale, luganega pork sausage, omit the sage, etcetera. Please experiment.