On the island you will rarely hear the words Beef Stew, or Chicken Stew the “Stewing” generally comes before the meat described. So it will be Stew Chicken or Stew Beef instead of the reverse as is more common in the States. This recipe at its heart a STEW! A thick, rich, hearty, and spicy stew!
I have been working a lot lately with Clay cooking. Clay pot cooking in particular is a traditional way of cooking on our island that is losing its place in our daily lives (including mine). Charcoal made from local woods makes food taste even better than anything you can find in a blue and white paper bag in the stores. And the slowness allows the smokiness to settle into the food to create a distinct flavor that is simply unmatchable.
I haven’t been able to find a traditional clay pot here on the island for purchase (yet). However, for this recipe I borrowed from another world cooking tradition– the Moroccan Tagine! There is nothing like the tagine for tenderizing tough pieces of meat. Tagine cooking is practically effortless, but staggeringly beautiful in how flavorful and tender it makes cheaper cuts of meat.
Clay is one the human race’s first types of cooking pots. We used what we had available to us and there is nothing more abundant on earth than EARTH! In my home, we do not own a non-stick or an aluminum pot. NO way! Every culture has some form of clay cooking, in the Caribbean it is the Clay Pot, in Morocco the tagine, in Spain the Cazuela, and in Colombia the Chamba, just to name a few. If you do not have a tagine lying around, you can always adapt this recipe to work in a slow cooker. The timing may be different, but the outcome should be about the same with your own adjustments.
This is a slow and steady stew made from local Crucian lamb bought from on of our favorite local farmers here on the island — Sejah Farms. It is also the best example of what happens when time, the perfect blend of ingredients, and a solid cooking tool all come together to reward you with a MEAN Stew Lamb!
2 1/2 Pounds Lamb Shoulder cut for stewing with the bone-in.
6-10 Cloves of Garlic (I love garlic)
2 Teaspoons Dried Thyme
3 Stalks Chopped Culantro or Cilantro
1 Ripe Diced Tomato
1 Diced Green Bell Pepper
2-3 Diced Seasoning Sweet Peppers
1 Chopped Onion
1/4 Teaspoon Curry Powder
2 Teaspoons Paprika
1 Teaspoon Smoked Paprika
1 1/2 cups Coconut Milk
Salt and Ground Black Pepper to Taste
2 Tablespoons Chopped Parsley (optional)
2 Tablespoons Sour Cream (optional)
This is one of the simplest dishes you can make. Simply place all of the ingredients except for the parsley in the tagine (or slow cooker). If you are using the tagine on a stove top, it is important to follow the manufacturer’s instruction carefully. So that you do not risk damaging yourself or your pot. My tagine needs a dampener to be used on my electric stove top. It is a piece of metal that sits between the stove and the pot. Also some tagines are smaller and may not hold a large amount of ingredients, as mine does. If this is your case, then modify the recipe to accommodate the size of your dish.
You could also start the process by browning(not cooking) the individual pieces of meat in a bit of olive oil, before placing in the tagine/slow cooker. But I prefer this method, especially on a slow Saturday where less feels like so much more.
Cover and let gently simmer for about an hour and a half on a medium-low heat, then carefully stir the pot.
In order to get the best results from clay cooking, resist the urge to keep “checking on it”. But I make sure I have enough liquid in the pot to keep it from sticking or burning. If you need to add (or take out) some of the liquid this would be a good time to make those adjustments. Always keep an ear and a nose out for food as it cooks.
I also use this first opening as an opportunity to skim off any of the excess fat that may come from the lamb. However, remember fat is flavor, so try not to take off too much. Cooking is inherently intuitive so its important to use your own best judgments for your pots, your stove, your climate, your kitchen, your creation! Experiment with your cooking. Your curiosity is always rewarded!
Cover the pot and let simmer for about another hour to an hour and a half. By this time, you should have a rich, bubbling, savory stew. I sometimes stir in a few tablespoons of sour cream to both thicken the stew and offer a bit of a flavor twist, but this is entirely optional. Garnish with the chopped parsley.
A steaming pile of fluffy, coconut jasmine rice and a few slices of sweet fried plantains make excellent plate partners for this Stew Lamb!! Grab a good red wine, a few plates, glasses, friends and family and ENJOY!