Beef usually hogs the spotlight when it comes to stews, but there are plenty of other meats that can star in this quintessential, cold-weather comfort food. Pork, chicken and here, lamb, a big favorite of my younger son, Charlie.
This rich meat also takes well to many flavor combos, and in this recipe, some accessible, Mediterranean-inspired supporting ingredients turn the lamb into a truly delicious stew. If you are a chickpea lover, feel free to add a second can.
These instructions use an Instant Pot, THE appliance of the decade. The Instant Pot is a plug-in pot that performs as a slow cooker, pressure cooker, rice cooker, yogurt maker and a few other impressive cooking tools. In this case, you will first be using the saute function and then the pressure cooker function to cook a tender stew in much less time than it would take otherwise.
Don't have an Instant Pot? You can also make this stew in a slow cooker. Just brown the meat in the slow cooker if it has a saute function, or if not, brown it and saute the vegetables in a pot on the stove, and then transfer everything to the slow cooker with the rest of the ingredients, and cook on low for 8 hours.
If you don't have an Instant Pot or a slow cooker, no worries! You can do all of the sauteing in a pot on the stove, and then add the other ingredients as directed and cook the stew, covered, over low heat for about 3 hours until the meat is tender. Give it an occasional stir to make sure the stew doesn't stick to the bottom. If you prefer to put it into a 300 degrees F oven after all of the ingredients have been combined, that works, too — this should also take about 3 hours. Give that a stir if you think of it every once in a while.
If you don't have brandy, add a healthy glug of red wine instead. This is a soupy stew, and would be fantastic ladled over noodles of any kind or chunks of steamed potatoes.
So, whether you approach this old school, new school or somewhere in the middle, the cooler days approaching promise to be flavorful.
INSTANT POT MEDITERRANEAN LAMB STEW
Start to finish: 2 hours in the Instant Pot, 9 hours in a slow cooker, or 4 hours on the stovetop or in the oven
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 pounds 1-inch cubes lamb shoulder or lamb stew meat
2 tablespoons olive oil, or as needed, divided
1/2 cup sliced leeks
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup diced fennel
1 teaspoon crushed dried rosemary
2 tablespoons brandy or cognac
1 (28-ounce) can diced or crushed tomatoes
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 cups beef broth
1 bay leaf
Chopped fresh parsley to serve
In a large shallow bowl combine the flour, salt and pepper. Add the lamb meat and toss to coat it.
Place the inner pot into your Instant Pot. Press the Saute button, and then use the Saute or Adjust buttons (depending on your model) to select the "Normal" or middle temperature. Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil to the pot, and let it heat for 1 minute. Add the lamb in two batches and brown on at least a few sides of the cubes, about 2 minutes per side (if you want to brown all of the sides, go ahead, but it's not necessary, and often the pieces of meat aren't really six-sided "cubes"). Remove the meat with a slotted spoon to a plate, add the remaining tablespoon olive oil if there is not oil in the pan, and repeat with the other half of the lamb.
Add the leeks, carrots, celery and fennel to the pot and saute without the lid on for 5 minutes, until everything is slightly tender. Stir in the rosemary, then add the brandy to the pot and stir for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, chickpeas, broth, bay leaf and lamb, and stir to combine.
Close and lock the lid. Set the valve to Sealing. Press Cancel, then press Manual or Pressure Cook and use the Pressure Level Button to select high pressure. Set the timer for 45 minutes. Note that the timer will not start to count down until the correct pressure has been achieved.
When the Instant Pot beeps, press Cancel. Let the pressure come down slowly for 30 minutes. Release the sealing valve, remove the lid and serve hot in bowls, with parsley sprinkled over the stew.
Nutrition information per serving: 652 calories; 376 calories from fat; 42 g fat ( 15g saturated; 2 g trans fats); 97 mg cholesterol; 928 mg sodium; 35 g carbohydrate; 9 g fiber; 11 g sugar; 34 g protein.
Katie Workman has written two cookbooks focused on easy, family-friendly cooking, "Dinner Solved!" and "The Mom 100 Cookbook." She blogs at http://www.themom100.com/about-katie-workman. She can be reached at Katie@themom100.com.