Here’s what we had for Sunday lunch with friends back in March, just before I moved and got too busy with unpacking, trips to IKEA, assembling flat packs, drilling holes into the walls and waiting for the broadband to be connected to do much blogging . . . .
Navarin is presumably made in the spring when all the vegetables are young and tender, however thanks to deep freezing, it can be made any time of year. I love to make it in springtime, however, and the blanching of the green vegetables gives this dish a freshness and vibrancy which echoes the newness of the season.
In this recipe, I used free range, organic Greyface Dartmoor lamb raised at Sheldon, the retreat centre where I work.
For some reason, people quite often think that I am a vegetarian. I never have been. I’m an omnivore. However I do love and respect all life. If I hunted my food, I would take only what I need and thank the spirit of the animal who gave it’s life that I may have meat to eat. About 15 years ago, when Whole Foods and Wild Oats supermarkets opened in Southern California and organic meat became readily available, I made the commitment to eating only free range, organic, responsibly sourced meat, fish and poultry. Even if it meant only having meat once or twice a week. It makes sense to me to eat food which has been raised in a healthy, stress free environment.
The written recipe (from Julia Child) is long as each detail is important if the navarin is to taste like a French masterpiece. But none of the steps is difficult and everything except the addition of the green vegetables at the very end may be made ready in the morning.
Lamb Stew with Spring Vegetables
Preheat oven to 450° Fahrenheit/220° Celsius
- 3 lbs/1.5 kilos lamb stew meat
- 2-4 tablespoons cooking oil
Cut the lamb into 2-inch cubes and dry with paper towels. The meat will not brown if it is damp. Brown a few pieces at a time in hot oil in a skillet. As they are browned, place them in a large covered casserole.
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
Sprinkle the lamb in the casserole with sugar and toss over moderately high heat for 3 to 4 minutes until the sugar has carmelised. This will give a fine amber colour to the sauce.
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons flour
Toss the meat with the salt and pepper, then sprinkle with the flour. Set casserole uncovered in the middle preheated oven for 4 to 5 minutes. Toss the meat and return it to the oven for 4 to 5 minutes more. This browns the flour evenly and coats the lamb with a light crust.
Remove casserole and turn oven temperature down to 350° Fahrenheit/180° Celsius.
- 2 to 3 cups/500 to 750 ml lamb or beef stock
- 1 cup/250 grams chopped fresh or canned tomatoes, or 3 tablespoons tomato puree
- 2 cloves garlic, mashed
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme or rosemary
- 1 bay leaf
Add 2 cups of stock to the skillet in which you browned the lamb. Bring to the boil and scrape up the coagulated sauté juices. Then pour the liquid the casserole. Bring to the simmer for a few seconds shaking and stirring to mix liquid and flour. Add the tomatoes or tomato paste and the other ingredients. Bring to the simmer for 1 minute, then add more stock if necessary; the meat should almost be covered by liquid.
Put the lid on the casserole and set in the lower third of the oven; regulate the heat so that the casserole simmers slowly and regularly for 1 hour.
While the lamb is simmering, prepare the vegetables as follows:
- 24 new potatoes, scrubbed and/or peeled
- 24 baby carrots, peeled
- 12-18 pearl onions or shallots, peeled
- 1-2 turnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
After the stew has simmered for an hour, pour the contents of the casserole into a sieve set over a bowl. Rinse out the casserole. Remove any loose bones and return the lamb to the casserole. Skim the fat off the sauce in the bowl, correct seasoning, and pour the sauce back into the casserole.
Nestle the vegetables into the casserole around and between the pieces of lamb. Baste with the sauce. Bring to the simmer on top of the stove, cover and return to the oven. Regulate heat so the liquid simmers slowly and steadily for about an hour longer or until the meat and vegetables are tender when pierced with a fork.
- 1 cup/225 grams shelled fresh or frozen green peas
- 1 cup/225 grams haricot vert, cut into 2-inch pieces
While the casserole is on the final simmer, drop the peas and beans into boiling salted water and boil rapidly, uncovered, for 5 minutes or until the vegetables are almost tender. Immediately drain into a colander. Run cold water over them for 2 to 3 minutes to stop the cooking and to set the colour. Put aside until ready to use.
(*) The navarin may be prepared ahead to this point. Set casserole aside, cover askew. Bring to the simmer on top of the stove before proceeding with the recipe.
Shortly before serving, place the beans and peas in the casserole on top of the other ingredients and baste with the bubbling sauce. Cover and simmer for about 5 minutes until the green vegetables are tender.
Serve with crusty French bread, and a red Beaujolais or Bordeaux wine, a chilled rosé, or a fairly full-bodied, dry, chilled white wine such as a Mâcon, Hermitage, or one of the lesser Burgundies.
Printemps, c’est bon de te revoir!