Winters are the perfect season for hearty rich stews. While attending Gentleman’s Expo at Toronto Metro Convention Center back in Fall 2014, I heard an excellent logical interpretation as to why we crave hearty rich food in colder weather and spicy food in warmer climates by one of Canada’s finest chefs and entreprenuers, and star of Dragon’s Den (the show that inspired the hugely popular Shark Tank) , Vikram Vij. Chef Vij who is originally from India explains that closer we are to equator we tend to gravitate towards spicy food which make us sweat hence cooling down our bodies, whereas further we go from equator we observe richer more fattier foods especially during winter. This dish however is quite spicy yet suitable during winters. If you have read my previous posts, I have often mentioned I cannot praise Berbere quite enough, it’s an amazing and versatile spice blend from Ethiopia and being an avid follower of the work of chef Marcus Samuelsson finding inspiration to use Berbere comes quite naturally. It works amazingly in both vegetarian and meat based dishes. Berbere in the stew is complimented with the aromatic elements of lavender and saffron which add a unique fragrance to the dish.
- 500 gm boneless leg of lamb
- 1 large chopped red onion
- 2 teaspoon Berbere
- 1 teaspoon smoked Paprika
- 6 cloves of chopped garlic
- 1 small knob of ginger finely chopped
- 2 cloves of cardamom 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 small tomato finely chopped
- 1 cup of red wine
- 4 chopped dates
- 1 cup chicken stock or 1/2 cup lamb stock
- 2 large potatoes quartered
- 1/2 gm saffron soaked in warm water
- 1 tablespoon of lavender soaked in warm water
- Mint for Garnish, olive oil and ghee
- Marinade the lamb with berbere, salt, pepper, smoked paprika and olive oil.Massage the lamb thoroughly so that flavors penetrate into the lamb, let it sit overnight.
- In a deep bottomed pan heat a tablespoon of olive oil.Sear the lamb pieces without overcrowding the pan, about 4 min each side so that the fat is rendered nicely. Remove from the pan.
- Now add the garlic, onion, ginger,cinnamon and cardamom and saute for about 4-5 min till the onions turn golden brown. Add the dates and cook for a further minute.Now add the red wine to deglaze the flavors from the bottom of the pan.
- Add the tomatoes and the lamb , cook for a few minutes. Add the chicken or lamb stock at this stage, bring it to a boil. Now add the lavender water (make sure you strain the lavender ) and saffron water at this stage. Even though both a strong aromatics the flavors do not clash. Lavender primarily reduces the bite present in berbere to a pleasant level and saffron makes the stew fragrant.
- Add the potatoes now , and reduce the heat to a slow simmer. Let the stew cook for a minimum of two hrs completely covered. The lamb should be tender and you should be able to cut through the meat with a spoon, if it’s not tender cook for a further 30 minutes.
- Add ghee to finish, garnish with fresh mint leaves as shown before serving. Ideally being an Ethiopian inspired dish it should be eaten with injera bread, however you could also serve it with warm naan bread, pita or rice pilaf.