It’s been a swing of a Spring so far – starting in classic fashion of snow but then a week later 70 degrees F! Many weeks of sunny and warm days, with some typical April and May rainy days in there, fooled us into thinking we were well on our way to Summer when last minute we get a crazy frost! Fortunately the apple trees were strong and it seems they did not lose their blossoms (that could have been catastrophic for many, and certainly plan changing for us as we are dreaming of a Harvest Party for cider this year). But the chill put us in the mood for a surprise Spring stew.
Dinners have been mostly easy meals during the work week (which for many of you is likely the weekend) and a little more flair on days off. What does easy look like for us? We have a couple of staples – Nachos Grande and Pizza always make the rounds, pasta or a stir fry other nights, sometimes we’ll whip up a Shakshuka or just bake wings and oven fries.
This past week though we asked D to pull out a couple of lamb steaks and we figured we’d slice up some potatoes and cook down some greens (I like food directionals – up, down, over…ha!). I can’t stress enough how important clean meat is and knowing where your meat comes from is great – this lamb was graciously bartered for bread from the lovely folks at Morton Brook Ranch in Pittston. But when we got home she had pulled lamb shanks – what to do, what to do, I thought ‘there’s no way shanks will cook anytime soon’. So, I consulted my meat expert, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and his big River Cottage Meat Book (so handy! as is the Veg/More Veg, the Family Cookbook, and River Cottage Every Day). His recipe Citrus-Braised Lamb Shanks set me on the right path, though I didn’t make this, I now had the fundamentals to work with, thanks Hugh! It wasn’t fast but it was easy and we had a little time (takes 2.5 hours to cook, but really only 15 minutes to prepare).
We had leftovers and bulked it back up by removing any leftover shanks and picking the meat off and into the pot, and just throwing in a bunch of chopped Rainbow Swiss Chard and a few more olives, can add a little more broth if needed.
Spring Lamb & Olive Stew
Serves 4, very comfortably
4 Lamb shanks, salt and peppered lightly
4-6 small to med Carrots, cut into 2″ chunks
4-6 med to large Yukon Gold Potatoes, cut into 2″ chunks
2 small to med Onion, quartered (or 2 med leeks, chopped large)
1 med to large celery stalk, cut into 2″ chunks
a few sprigs of Thyme
a couple of Bay Leaves
2 Garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 28oz (Large) can of Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes (or a couple of whole fresh or from the freezer, or canned whole, or a plethora of cherry, etc – whatever you have that equals about 2 cups of tomatoes)
1-2 Tbsp Tomato Paste (whoever invented tomato paste in a squeeze tube is my hero)
2 cups of Beef Broth (or 1 cup of Broth, 1 cup of Wine – red or white, your choice)
1 Quart (about 2 cups) of Fresh Mushrooms (we had a mix of chestnut and oyster), cut into 2″ chunks, if necessary (if using button or cremini, just halve or quarter if large)
5-6oz mixed Greek Olives (pitted or unpitted, up to you, ours are generally unpitted – we just remove the pits as we eat)
Sea Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste
2-3 Tbsp Olive Oil
Handful of Fresh Parsley, chopped coarsely
Crusty Sourdough Bread (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a heavy-bottom oven safe pan (with a lid), heat the Olive Oil on the stovetop on Medium-Medium High. Brown Shanks on all sides, when turning for the last time, throw in Carrots and Onions and let brown with Lamb for a few minutes. Add Celery, Garlic, Herbs, Potatoes, and cook another minute or two stirring everyone together.
Add Tomatoes and Tomato Paste, Broth and/or Wine, and bring to a Simmer.
Stir in Mushrooms and Olives, put the lid on and put in the oven.
Turn down the oven to 250 degrees F, and cook for 2.5 hours or until meat is tender on the bone.
Taste for Seasoning and add chopped Parsley for garnish (and overlooked nutrition-Parsley is a wonderfood!). Serve with crusty bread!