Monday, September 22, 2008

Lamb, bean and leek stew

A variation on this stew. It is quite rich: you do not need as much meat (for 4) as I recommended in the earlier version.

650g lamb neck fillet, cut into medallions
2 onions, chopped
I large leek, sliced and soaked (to wash away the grit)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cloves garlic, unpeeled
1 sprig rosemary
2 bay leaves
1 ladleful stock (I used chicken)
2 tins cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
3tbsp double cream
Sunflower oil
Olive oil

In a heavy casserole, warm a couple of tbsps of olive oil over a gentle heat, and sweat the onions and garlic in it, adding more oil if the vegetables threaten to catch. When they are softened, throw in the (drained) leeks, and stir to coat them in oil. (Soup and stew recipes always tell you to do that: whether the coating in fat makes any difference to the ultimate flavour must be open to question.)

I have written before that I like to brown meat on a ridged grill pan. I now coat it first with a little oil, which I think promotes browning. Toss the medallions of lamb with just a tsp or two of sunflower or groundnut oil (which have higher smoking points than olive oil). Place the pan on a medium to high heat, give it a couple of minutes to get hot, and brown the meat in batches; the process should take no more than a minute on each side. (If it takes longer, the lamb may dry out. Transfer the lamb as it browns to a plate.)

Tip the lamb into the casserole with the vegetables, and add the whole garlic, rosemary, bay, stock, and salt to taste. Transfer to an oven at gas mark 2/150C.

Check every so often to see that the stew is gently simmering; adjust the temperature accordingly. Because not much was happening to my stew after 30 minutes or so, I raised the dial to gas mark 4/180C for 20 minutes, before turning it back down to 1/140C. That low temperature was quite sufficient to maintain a simmer.

After 90 minutes, tip in the cannellini beans. Return the casserole to the oven for a further 30 minutes, before transferring it to a low light on the hob. You can squeeze the whole garlic cloves from their husks into the sauce if you like. Stir in the cream, warm through for a minute, and serve.

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