Monday, December 10, 2012

Lamb Stew with Parsnips, Prunes & Chickpeas

North African in spirit, this hearty, delicious and savoury Lamb Stew with Parsnips, Prunes & Chickpeas, is perfect fare for the wintery season. We enjoyed this fragrant and aromatic dish while visiting our friends Cory and Richard, for a wonderful Christmas carolling event this past weekend in Kingston, Ontario. The evening before the big night, we feasted on a nourishing stew which was served with fluffy couscous, a loaf of good crusty bread and a few bottles of jammy Italian red wines.

The fragrant lamb stew simmering on the stovetop

Every weekend that our friends Cory and Richard invite us to their beautiful country home, they introduce us to a new group of warm, interesting and delightful friends, and spoil us with an intoxicating extravaganza of culinary feasts, like this comforting Lamb Stew with Parsnips, Prunes and Chickpeas served over fluffy couscous. Resistance is futile.

Lamb Stew with Parsnips, Prunes, and Chickpeas
Serves 4-6

3 lb boneless leg of lamb, cut into 1-inch cubes 

2 tbsp olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 medium carrots, cut into 3-inch pieces
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and stuck with 1 whole clove
1 three-inch cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf

For the stew:
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large yellow onion, cut into small dice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 medium cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 tbsp paprika
2 tsp cumin seed, toasted and ground
2 tsp coriander seed, toasted and ground
1/2 tsp cayenne
2 cups cooked chickpeas, rinsed if canned
18 pitted prunes, halved
1/2 cup tomato purée
1 lb medium parsnips, peeled, cored, and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F.

Season the lamb with 2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper and brown the lamb briefly in a saucepan with a little olive oil, until the meat is seared on all sides. In a 5- to 6-quart Dutch oven, combine the browned lamb, carrots, onion, cinnamon, bay leaf, and enough water to cover. Cover and braise in the oven until the meat is very tender, about 2-1/2 hours. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve over a large bowl. Discard the vegetables and spices. The recipe may be prepared to this point up to 2 days ahead. Cool the lamb and broth, and refrigerate separately. Skim the fat from the broth before continuing.

For the stew, heat the butter or oil in a 5- to 6-quart Dutch oven, over medium-high heat. Add the onion, a pinch of salt, and a few grinds of pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic, paprika, cumin, coriander, and cayenne and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 1 to 2 minutes.

Stir in the chickpeas, prunes, tomato purée, and a pinch of salt. Add the reserved lamb and 4 cups of the broth and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes and then turn the heat to low. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the parsnips and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve sprinkled with cilantro or parsley. 

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