Recipe: Simplest Spiced Lamb Stew

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This is a dish that's meant to be easy and stress-free. After all, you deserve a break. I like to prepare it during the day while I'm working at home, but if you don't work from home, you can pull it together on a weekend day or even after you make dinner one weeknight. It will be ready for the next night's meal and all the better for its time in the fridge.

Part of what's so simple about this dish is the ingredients; there lots of substitution opportunities here. If you don't have nutmeg, for example, don't sweat it. You can even drop the cinnamon if you don't have any or it's not your thing, though cinnamon is a classic spice pairing for lamb. A half teaspoon of cumin, or even allspice, might be nice. As for the wine, substitute stock or even beer if you have to. This same technique works for beef as well.

For this recipe, I took the concept of Marge Piercy's Cinnamon Lamb in her book, Pesach for the Rest of Us, and applied it to a stew since lamb is a favorite choice for slow-simmered dishes.

Simplest Cinnamon Lamb Stew

Serves 6 to 8

2 pounds boneless lamb shoulder (or other stew meat), cubed
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced thin
2 medium carrots, diced
2 whole celery stalks, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 cup red wine
1 bay leaf
A few sprigs of parsley, chopped

Place the lamb in a glass bowl or baking dish and toss with the salt, pepper, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Cover and place in refrigerator for up to 24 hours if you have time, or continue making the recipe as below.

In a heavy saucepan or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat and brown the pieces of lamb on all sides. Depending on the size of your pan, you may have to work in batches. When all of the meat is browned, add the onion, carrots, celery and garlic. Cook for about five minutes, stirring often, until vegetables start to soften. Add the tomatoes, wine and bay leaf, and stir.

When mixture begins to bubble, reduce the heat to low and cover. Cook for 2 hours, or until meat falls apart when tested with a fork.

Serve the stew on its own, or over couscous or rice. Garnish with chopped parsley.

This recipe has been updated. Originally published April 2009.

(Image credits: Sara Kate Gillingham)