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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Lamb and Guinness Stew



St. Patrick’s Day is one of those holidays that everyone can celebrate. No need for cards, or high expectations and there will be no dashed hopes. St. Patrick's Day is simply a time to celebrate life with good friends. While the origins of this day begin in Ireland and the Irish everywhere take exceptional pride in celebrating this holiday, they don’t seem to mind if the rest of us celebrate with them.

I made this recipe inspired not so much in honour of St. Patty's Day but as a result of our first shipment of our “meat” share from a local farm around Toronto. It is a small scale farm that celebrates the return of values of environmental responsibility, non-commercial farming, and preservation of heritage livestock breeds. And that's definitely something we can buy into. Moreover, they naturally raise heritage breeds of beef, pork, lamb, chicken, turkeys and ducks without use of antibiotics and the result is incredibly delicious and flavourful meats. This week's shipment included Shropshire lamb chunks and farm fresh Jersey Giant eggs.

As soon as I opened the package of lamb, I could tell the difference. The meat had a fresh clean smell to it and felt fleshy and firm. As I sauteed the meat, I expected it to exude that characteristic gamey "lamb" smell, instead that strong gamey smell gave way to a slightly more subtle aroma. It was distinctly lamb, but not overpowering or heavy. I sampled a tiny piece as I browned the meat and found that it had a delicate texture that practically melted in my mouth. It could be eaten right now! No braising required. But several hours in the slow cooker transformed the lamb and the other ingredients into rich, earthy stew that warms the belly and the soul on an unexpectedly cold March night.

The rich, earthy aroma of the stew wafted throughout our house and we had to go for a walk in the afternoon to stop us from slipping bowls of stew out before our guests arrived.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Lamb Stew with Guinness

1 large onion, cut into large chunks
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 ½ c beef stock
¼ c pearled barley, washed
1 large can Guinness less a quarter cup
3 large carrots, peeled and cut into ½ inch coins
3 celery stalked, trimmed and cut into ½ inch half moons
1 tsp rosemary minced finely
1 lb lamb, cut into chunks (shoulder or leg may be used)
2 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks

1. Heat oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat & slowly cook onions.
2. Meanwhile, add celery, carrots, barley, beef stock, rosemary, brown sugar and Guinness into a slow cooker.
3. Once onions have softened, add onions to the slow cooker. Season lamb with salt and pepper.
4. In the same sauté pan, over medium high heat, sear the lamb. Turn meat and brown on all sides. Add to the slow cooker. Cook for 6 hours.
5. At the six hour mark, add potatoes, stir and cover. Cook for another 2 hours. Serve.

*The alcohol in the beer evaporates leaving a rich, dark flavour.

If you don’t have a slow cooker, that’s okay, too. You can slowly cook this in a Dutch oven under low heat, for less time, add potatoes in about an hour before you plan to serve. The late addition of potatoes leaves them their shape a toothy feel.

5 comments:

Tangled Noodle said...

This looks marvelous! Although I've already planned corned beef for St. Pat's, I need no holiday excuse to make this. And how wonderful you have a 'meat' share - I've seen CSAs for produce but can't recall one around here for meat. I will certainly check; the local meats I buy at the farmer's markets, as you noted, really do have a flavor so discernibly different from grocery offerings.

Vinosister said...

Mmmmmm! I am totally going to try this. I make steak and Guinness all the time so this will be a nice change...and I know my Brit boy will love it.

Hungry Gal said...

@ Tangled Noodle

After reading Fast Food Nation - I was converted. (Me on my soap box): We should question where our meat is coming from and how the animals (and as well as the people) who provide this meat are treated. I guess this is a fairly popular movement now but I think it is driven by a lot of common sense. If you are paying $4 for a pot roast, you should ask yourself how is it possible for this meat to be so cheap. It costs money to raise these animals. Somewhere along the line, at least someone if not others have cut corners. (And I find that scary!)

We used to order organic meat from a farm (we stopped because we found it difficult to fill our orders necessary for them to deliver.) So now we have found this new CSA - they have vegetables and meat. Unfortunately, we are not able to set up a regular shipment of vegetables with them this year as in keeping with it "local" they don't come to Toronto weekly. So we'll be getting our vegetable shares when they deliver the meat. I will post more about them as I get to know them. But I think we are off to a great start.

@ Vinosister - good luck. I love steak and Guinness too!

France said...

Thank you for this wonderfully flavourful recipe! I made it in a Crock Pot today, and it filled the house with a mouth-watering aroma. Unfortunately, my husband complained it was too sweet, and I must agree. I would say that to my taste, the recipe is perfect except for this one detail: next time, I will make it with two teaspoons of brown sugar instead of two tablespoons. Thanks again!

Hungry Gal said...

@ france

Thanks for commenting and for the feedback!

I think recipes are for inspiration and always could be tweaked to suit personal tastes. I found the Guinness a wee bit bitter without the inclusion of sugar. But everyone's tastesbuds are different. Vive le difference!

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