Succulent lamb stew meat is seasoned with sumac, lightly browned and then simmered with stock to make a flavor rich stew, the finishing touches are the freshest baby potatoes, green beans and carrots; add a loaf of crusty bread and a full bodied red wine and you have the perfect comfort food.
Last month I had just made a steamy latte, turned on the computer, opened up the October issue of Saveur (this is a drool worthy edition, the photos (by Penny De Los Santos) are amazing) and was in the middle of reading A Shepherd’s Life, when I was “dinged” that I had a new email. Normally, I would have just kept reading, but I put the magazine down and opened my email. Now don’t get me wrong the article was very interesting and I was very intrigued as it was about Basque sheepherders in Idaho and this is of great interest to me as I am of Basque decent, particularly from the Pyrenees. But, there in front of me was an email from an Annie and the subject line read “Chez Us & Grass Fed Lamb”. Hmmm, small world and quite strange as I was in the middle of reading about “lamb”. I opened the email and even odder was that Annie is from a ranch in the Lava Lake area of Idaho, exactly the same area I was currently reading about. I immediately put down the magazine and proceeded to read her email.
Annie is with a ranch called Lava Lake Ranch, they are an artisan producer of 100 percent grass-fed certified organic lamb. They raise their lamb on a family owned ranch near Sun Valley Idaho. Not only are they raising grass fed lamb (100%) but they are dedicated to the same values we have with regards to eating, “you are what you eat”. Their lambs are raised without antibiotics, growth hormones and are never placed in a feed lot, they only graze on what is certified as organic and they only drink their mother’s milk. The end result is a tender and very flavorful lamb.
After a few emails back and forth, getting to know each other better, Annie asked if we would be interested in trying their lamb. The answer was simple as I have been looking for lamb that is grass-fed as well as close to home. Don’t get me wrong New Zealand as well as Australian lamb is great but we really cannot call it “sustainable” when it is taking a flight over to my dinner table.
Given the root of where the lamb came from and that I was reading an article on Lamb and the Basque country while this all transpired, I should have made a Basque Lamb Stew but instead I was inspired to make a Middle Eastern inspired lamb stew. My friend Jacqueline recently sent me some sumac, when I could not find it here and I had yet to use it! I had never used sumac before so I was not sure where this dish would be going but I do have to say I made the right choice.
You may be asking yourself what is sumac? Sumac comes from berries that are harvested from a bush that can be found throughout the Mediterranean, it is NOT related to the sumac plant in North America, which is poisonous. Dried sumac is made by harvesting the berries, drying and crushing them. It has a somewhat lemony flavor and a beautiful vibrant purplish red color. You will find it in the ingredient list for many middle eastern dishes.
For this recipe, I simply floured the lamb with the sumac and browned the meat until golden. Then I used beef stock and let the lamb slowly simmer for a couple hours. A few minutes before serving I stirred in small yellow creamer potatoes, green beans and baby carrots. The lamb was amazingly tender, no gnawing through tough meat or struggling to cut. As well the slightly “green” taste was very pleasant as it was somewhat herb like, a really nice compliment to the fresh vegetables as well as the lemon essence of the sumac. I have had my fair share of lamb and I have to admit this was really the best lamb stew meat I have ever eaten!
We have a few selections of lamb that we will be featuring (may even make a Basque dish), as well we will be telling you more about Lava Lake Ranch, so be sure to come back for more grass fed lamb!
Middle Eastern Inspired Lamb Stew
1 lb lamb stew meat
1/2 cup flour
1 tablespoon sumac
1/2 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons sumac
salt, to taste
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups good beef stock
1/2 pound baby yellow creamer potatoes
1/2 pound green beans, ends snipped and cut in half
1/2 pound baby carrots, tops removed, left whole
Lightly toss the lamb with the flour and 1 tablespoon of sumac. Brown in olive oil over low heat, do not use high heat or it will burn. Once browned move the meat to a plate.
Add the onions to the pan and cook until slightly soft, about 5 minutes, add the garlic and give a quick stir.
Return the meat to the pan and add the broth, sprinkle the remaining sumac over the top.
Lower the heat to a low simmer, cover and let cook about 1 1/2 hours – 2 hours. The longer it cooks the more the flavor develops.
About 20 minutes before serving add the potatoes and green beans, cook for 10 minutes.
10 minutes before serving lay the carrots on top, keep heat at a low simmer and cover for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.