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Celebrate the Start of Spring: Persian Lamb Stew with Rhubarb & Mint

I know many of you still have piles of snow outside your front doors.  And I totally feel for you– many of you let me know that you can still only dream of forgaing for nettles like we did last weekend, and I’m sorry.  We have been lucky to get some milder weather lately, and I am suddenly so done with it being winter.  So I am going to start celebrating springtime, even if it’s a couple weeks early.  Hopefully all of you have some rhubard available by now, and you can celebrate along with me– I think this stew is perfect!  I found it in my new favorite cookbook that I picked up a couple weeks ago, Pomegranates & Roses: My Persian Family Recipes by Ariana Bundy.  This is the second recipe from her book that I tried, and it was so unusual that I knew I would have to share it with you.  (If you don’t have rhubarb yet, you can actually still make this, just substituting more celery instead.)

Persian Lamb Stew with Rhubarb & Mint

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil or other cooking fat (I chose beef tallow)
  • 1 large onion, chopped into small dice
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped into small dice
  • 1 lb or 500g leg of lamb*, deboned, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp brown sugar (or honey)
  • juice and zest of 1/2 lemon, or to taste
  • 1-1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper (I’ll admit it– I left this out, since I don’t care for white pepper)
  • 25 g fresh mint, finely chopped
  • 3 cups or 150 g (yes, you read that correctly!) flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
  • 3 cups or 750 ml unsalted chicken stock
  • 1/3 tsp dried mint
  • 1.5 lbs. or 750 g rhubarb, cut into 2 inch pieces on the diagonal
  • 1/2 tsp saffron threads ground in a small mortar and dissolved in 2-3 tbsp hot water

*This recipe would also work well with beef or chicken, if lamb is not an option

What to do:

1.  In a stew pot over medium to high heat, warm the fat of your choice up and brown the meat.  Take your time to do this, it’s makes a difference.

2.  Remove the meat, turn the heat down to medium-low and add the onions and celery, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan, cooking for about five minutes or until the onions are transparent and turning golden.
3.  Add the meat back in, along with the garlic, butter, turmeric, sugar, lemon zest (reserve the juice for later) and salt, pepper, and the fresh herbs.  Cook for about five minutes, then add the dried mint and chicken stock.
4.  Cover (but leave the lid slightly ajar) and simmer over low heat for an hour, stopping by to stir it up a few times as it cooks.

5.  Add the chopped rhubarb and saffron liquid, and let it cook for 20 minutes.  Be sure not to stir this up, because the rhubarb becomes very soft, and you want it to remain intact for serving.
6.  Taste it.  I am recommending not adding the lemon juice until you do, because it can become quite tart.  Add the lemon juice if needed, but if it’s already more sour than you like, then you can balance it out with a little more sugar or honey.
7.  Serve.  I like to garnish it with more fresh herbs.
This dish would be wonderful over rice, or over a pureed root vegetable, like mashed turnips (that’s how we enjoyed it.Thinking of the tartness of that tender rhubarb, blending with the buttery, herb-infused broth totally has my mouth watering right now.  This stew is definitely something out of the ordinary, and I hope it will bring a fresh start to your enjoyment of spring.

What’s your favorite spring crop, one that you can’t wait to see show up at your market?

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Persian Lamb Stew with Rhubarb & Mint

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12 Responses to Celebrate the Start of Spring: Persian Lamb Stew with Rhubarb & Mint

  1. Joanna March 7, 2013 at 5:10 pm #

    Still under a pile of snow here and had more since last week, but it is also starting to melt when we do have the sun. I think I shall have to go and throw some ashes over the rhubarb and encourage the snow to melt faster, just so we can have some a little sooner. I suppose I could do that over the nettle patch too, I know where there is some.:)

    • Ariana Mullins March 17, 2013 at 12:30 pm #

      Well, we’re in the snow now, as well! Glad we had a little peak at Spring, but it does make it a little harder to take the snow and freezing rain now…

  2. Hazel March 9, 2013 at 9:28 am #

    Must go down to the allotment and see how the rhubarb is doing. I’ve eaten it with mackerel (very good) but not meat.

    • Ariana Mullins March 17, 2013 at 12:29 pm #

      I have only made rhubarb in sweet things in the past– with mackerel sounds really great!

  3. Nikki Wall March 13, 2013 at 9:43 pm #

    The weather is so frustrating! I got out into our new ‘garden’ last week and it was lovely and sunny and I started to clear the brambles and tidy up the existing herbs and then the rug was pulled from beneath my feet and there was snow!

    Strangely enough I’ve been making celeriac and apple soup of late!

    My most favourite spring veg would have to be purple sprouting brocolli – I love it so!

    • Ariana Mullins March 17, 2013 at 12:29 pm #

      I know, Nikki– I planted peas a couple weeks ago, when it was warm! They’ve surely germinated and died in the cold. We love the sprouting broccoli, too!

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