A good stew is hard to find. I’ve always taken “stew” to mean “cooked to death and rendered completely tasteless”. My palate leans towards bold flavour and spice. Cooking root vegetables and meat together until neither tastes like anything is not my idea of a good meal.
This stew is different.
In my opinion lamb automatically makes everything better. Especially when it’s delicious pastured lamb. The strong flavour mellows a bit when cooked in a stew, but unlike beef, it really holds its own. I used lamb shanks for this dish but stew meat would work equally well. The benefit to using a cut with some bone is twofold. One, you get the flavour from the marrow leaching into the dish. Two, it’s easy to tell when it’s perfectly done… you just cook until the meat falls off the bone.
The spices in this dish are complex. Cinnamon and ginger mingle with garlic, coriander and cumin. Although I like my food spicy, I didn’t make this dish hot because I wanted the cinnamon to shine. The flavours really bring out the sugar in the sweet potato carrot in sharp contrast to the acidic nature of the tomato. A little red wine vinegar boosts the flavour and, in my opinion, pulls everything together nicely.
Serving it up
I’ve opted to make this dish without white potatoes in the stew -instead, I serve it on a bed of Brown Butter and Garlic Whipped Potatoes. If you want to be more authentic about it, couscous is an acceptable substitute. That said, I think the smooth texture of the whipped potato pairs perfectly with the slightly chewy lamb and root veggies.
As a final note, DO NOT omit the toasted pecan garnish. Although it may seem like an afterthought, the nutty flavour and crunch really make this dish special. Pecans knock this stew right out of the park. Just do it.